Internal White House document recommends South Carolina close bars, require masks in most counties

Around the South

WASHINGTON (WBTW) — An internal White House document dated July 14 shows South Carolina is in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases and percent positivity and recommends closing bars and requiring masks in most counties, according to The Center for Public Integrity.

Seventeen other states are in the “red zone” for the number of cases and 10 others are in the “red zone” the rate of positive coronavirus tests.

According to the document, South Carolina has more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people last week and also has a percent positive rate above 10%, which lands the state in the “red zone.” In the past week, South Carolina has reported 214 new cases per 100,000 people, while the national average was 119 per 100,000.

South Carolina’s percent positive rate has been hovering around 20% over the past two weeks.

Source: DHEC

Charleston County, Horry County, and Greenville County are the three counties with the highest number of cases over the past three weeks, the document shows. Those three counties make up 41.5% of new cases statewide.

Among the recommendations in the document are promoting social distancing, requiring masks, testing nursing home residents and staff weekly, and “intensified contact tracing.”

DHEC listed on its website that it had 1,000 contact tracers and had access to more than 4,000 through contracts with private staffing companies, but those numbers were updated and significantly lowered after being questioned by News13.

In all counties with a percent positive rate of more than 10%, it is recommended for bars and gyms to close, strict social distancing to be enforced at restaurants, and groups be limited to 10 or less, according to the document.

States with a percent positive rate higher than 5% in the past seven days are asked to implement mask mandates, which Gov. McMaster has stopped short of doing. Some local cities have enacted their own mask requirements.

According to the document, Darlington and Marlboro counties are the only two in the News13 viewing area that were in the “yellow zone” last week. All other counties were in the “red zone.”

For counties in the “red zone,” public officials are urged to close bars and gyms, create outdoor dining opportunities, limit gatherings to 10 people or less, and recruit more contact-tracers. The document also recommends “pool testing.

According to the FDA, “this technique allows a lab to mix several samples together in a “batch” or pooled sample and then test the pooled sample with a diagnostic test.”

If a sample comes back negative, everyone in that group is cleared, but if it comes back positive, every person in that group is retested with standard COVID-19 procedures.

The FDA said this can help test more people while using less testing supplies; however, the FDA warns that due to diluted samples, it increases the likelihood of false negative results if they’re not validated properly.

Counties in the “yellow zone” are urged to close bars and limit gym capacity to 25% until percent positive rates fall below 3%. All other recommendations are the same as the recommendations for counties in the “red zone.”

The document lists the top 12 counties based on the number of new cases over the past three weeks. Horry County ranks second, behind Charleston County, and Florence County ranks 12th.

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