We're tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines in South Carolina. Check back for updates.
Over 531,000 vaccine doses administered
At least 403,928 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in South Carolina since March and 6,730 have died, according to state health officials.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Thursday reported 1,649 new COVID-19 cases, down from 1,762 reported the day before.
Seventy-five additional deaths were reported Thursday.
At least 1,677 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus in South Carolina as of Thursday. A total of 779,250 COVID vaccine doses had been delivered to the state as of Thursday, and 531,918 shots had been administered.
As of Thursday, 10.1% of COVID-19 tests were positive, a decline from past weeks. However, the lower percentage isn't due to a decrease in coronavirus activity, but a change in the way DHEC is calculating the figure.
Health officials have said that number should be closer to 5% to control the spread of the virus.
57% of Beaufort Co. school employees say they want vaccine
A recent survey sent out by the Beaufort County School District to employees found that 57% want to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them, the Island Packet reported.
However, the true percentage may be higher, as only 2,208 staff out of 3,000 responded to the survey, or about 73% of the district's workforce, Superintendent Frank Rodriguez said. Of those who responded, 77% said they would get vaccinated.
While teachers likely won't be eligible to receive the vaccine until phase 1b of South Carolina's vaccination plan, expected to start in the spring, the school district is already preparing.
According to Rodriguez, the district has shared employee contact info with local hospitals.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital CEO Russell Baxley said that when the time comes, he will work with Rodriguez to hold mass vaccination events at school sites.
SC officials push schools to resume in-person classes
For months, state Department of Education officials have told schools to consider COVID-19 spread in their communities when deciding whether to hold classes in-person or remotely.
But not anymore.
Despite worries that schools would become hotbeds of coronavirus activity, Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said Thursday that new evidence shows they are safe environments, if proper precautions are taken.
"Supporting studies have found schools to be safe when they're following key mitigation strategies and they're implemented consistently," Spearman said, pointing to a study by a Medical University of South Carolina pediatrician.
"We know now you can operate schools safely even when there's high spread in communities," she added.
Over half of schools in the state, 646 of them, already offer in-person classes five days a week. Most of the rest have hybrid models in place, while a small number are purely remote.
The lack of consistent, in-person education and interaction is negatively impacting South Carolina students' learning, particularly among younger students, Spearman said. The longer schools wait to resume normal teaching, the farther behind students fall.
"South Carolina cannot afford to delay going back to school any longer," Spearman said. "Face-to-face instruction is vital for families and communities, and action has to be taken."
McMaster wants seniors vaccinated before teachers
Gov. Henry McMaster spoke out in opposition of a joint resolution introduced Wednesday that would add teachers to phase 1a of the state's vaccination plan.
South Carolina's seniors are the most at risk against COVID-19, and should be prioritized over teachers and school support staff, he said.
"It is clearly the older people who are at risk and we are not going to take a single vaccination from those who are likely to die from this virus to give to someone who is not likely to die from the virus," the governor said Thursday at a joint news conference with state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. "It would be unethical and immoral to do that."
Under the current plan, teachers will be eligible for vaccination under phase 1b, expected to begin in the Spring.