Edgefield Testing 21.jpg

A DHEC employee assists with a mobile coronavirus testing unit that visited Edgefield County on Thursday. Self Regional Healthcare, which assisted with the unit, recently diagnosed five employees in Edgefield County with the virus. 

Five healthcare workers in Edgefield County have tested positive for coronavirus, a staff member at Self Regional Healthcare confirmed.

Mark Hyatt, director of marketing and public relations at Self Regional Healthcare, confirmed five team members at Edgefield County Healthcare had tested positive for coronavirus as of May 22.

Per policy, all workers confirmed to have the virus will be in quarantine for a minimum of two weeks before returning to work as the CDC recommends, Hyatt said in an email.

A handful of new coronavirus cases were also identified in Aiken County on Friday, state health authorities said.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed 245 new COVID-19 cases Friday, including five in Aiken County. Three new coronavirus-related deaths were also confirmed Friday in three elderly individuals from Spartanburg and Jasper counties.

This brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in South Carolina to 9,638 and those who have died to 419. Aiken County has recorded 166 of those cases and seven of the total deaths.

DHEC has reported a recent increase in testing throughout the state, primarily through new permanent testing sites and several scheduled mobile units that have been visiting primarily underserved, poor or rural areas of the state.

One of these units visited Edgefield County on Thursday, where over 360 people received free COVID-19 tests. The unit was operated in collaboration with DHEC and its community partners, including Self Regional Medical Centers.

Although dozens of additional free mobile testing units have been scheduled by DHEC, none have been announced for Aiken County.

Nearly 155,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted in South Carolina by private and public labs, DHEC has said.  

Also this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released federal guidelines on social distancing protocols in schools that are open or planning to reopen.

The lengthy guidelines, which are posted on the CDC's website, classify normal classroom procedures as "high risk" for coronavirus transmission and virtual-only activities as "low-risk." However, the AccelerateED state task force on Thursday strongly recommended against virtual learning for summer camps and the regular school year for a variety of reasons, including prevalent broadband access issues across large swaths of South Carolina and a lack of appropriate devices in the homes of both students and teachers.

The recommendations also call for measures such as encouraging students to bring lunch from home if possible, and limiting access to shared playground equipment. 

How individual districts within South Carolina, including the Aiken County Public School District, will adapt these recommendations will be seen in the coming weeks, depending on how the pandemic continues to unfold. 

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.