State health authorities confirmed another 1,320 positive coronavirus cases in South Carolina on Monday, 12 of which are in Aiken County.

Barnwell County has two new coronavirus cases and Edgefield County has three new cases.

Four new coronavirus-related deaths were also reported Monday, according to a press release from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. The victims, who were all elderly, were not residents of Aiken County.

Of the 7,336 hospital beds in use statewide, over 1,000 are occupied by patients who either have COVID-19 or are being investigated for having COVID-19, according to S.C. DHEC. Hospital capacity is currently at about 70% full for South Carolina. 

Aiken Regional Medical Centers has confirmed 84 cases of COVID-19 as of June 29. The hospital has treated four patients who ultimately died of coronavirus-related complications, according to a press release.   

Although a vaccine for COVID-19 has yet to be developed, biotechnology company Gilead Sciences has developed a drug shown to shorten recovery time for severely ill patients.

The price of the new drug, remdesivir, will be $2,340 for a typical treatment course for patients covered by federal health programs in developed counties – including the U.S. – and $3,120 for patients with private insurance, Gilead Sciences announced Monday. 

Out-of-pocket costs will depend on other factors, including income.

Gilead Sciences CEO Dan O'Day said in a statement that the pricing would allow for "wide access" to patients, but the announcement that the company will charge thousands of dollars for the treatment, which allegedly is not known to improve COVID-19 mortality, has drawn some swift criticism.

Peter Maybarduk, a lawyer at the consumer group Public Citizen, called the price “an outrage.”

Maybarduk said “remdesivir should be in the public domain” because the drug received at least $70 million in public funding toward its development.

In a government-led study, remdesivir shortened recovery time by 31% – 11 days on average versus 15 days for those given the usual care. Current studies show it does not improve survival for patients infected with COVID-19; results from longer-range studies are expected in the coming weeks.

“This is a high price for a drug that has not been shown to reduce mortality,” Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic said in an email. “Given the serious nature of the pandemic, I would prefer that the government take over production and distribute the drug for free. It was developed using significant taxpayer funding.”

Gilead will have spent about $1 billion developing the drug by the end of the year, the company said.

O'Day said the prices will go into effect after the treatments that already have been donated to the U.S. and other countries run out. That will happen in about one week.  

News of Gilead Science's pricing has been much anticipated as coronavirus cases continue to climb. Globally, half a million people have died from COVID-19 complications as of June 29, and over 10 million have been reported infected since the pandemic began. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Kristina Rackley is the health, education, and general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard. To support local journalism and access more articles, subscribe by clicking here