South Carolina emerging as coronavirus hot spot

Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. reach 3 million
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Four months, 3 million confirmed infections and over 130,000 deaths into the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, Americans confronted with an alarming resurgence of the scourge are facing long lines at testing sites and going a week or more without receiving a diagnosis.

South Carolina hospitals could have to implement medical surge plans to add thousands of additional beds as COVID-19 infection and hospitalization numbers keep rising.

The state hospital association said Monday that hospitals will initiate a bed surge plan if statewide bed utilization reaches 80%. The utilization rate has at times exceeded 75% since the start of the pandemic.

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State health officials announced 1,505 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths Monday, following the holiday weekend.

Some children's hospitals have already begun to admit adults to help make room for COVID-19 and other patients.

A Harvard Global Health Institute tool used to track the severity of the outbreak recently ranked the state as the third highest in the country in terms of risk level -- behind only Florida and Arizona -- and the data indicates the virus is showing no signs of slowing down. An ABC News analysis of the data found the state is seeing increases three major categories: cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. reach 3 million

In Charleston County, for example, the report warned that there is "no sign of cases slowing down." In Horry County, home to the popular tourist destination Myrtle Beach, "cases continue to sharply rise ... widespread travel to the area contributing to cases," says the report, dated July 4.

"New hot spots continue to develop. Consecutive hot spots week after week becoming the norm," it says.

South Carolina was one of the first states to reopen on April 24, though Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, never fully shut the state down and reopened it without meeting the White House's recommended guidelines. The state also does not have a mask mandate, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to slow the spread of the virus. McMaster's office did not provide comment for this report when reached by ABC News late Tuesday.

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McMaster has previously defended his approach to combating the pandemic. "There are going to be ups and downs," McMaster said during a press briefing on May 28, according to a local news report. "But the effort that we are undergoing in South Carolina is strong, it is thorough, it is well thought out. It has been acknowledged as such and we expect to have success."

ABC News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.