- Associated Press - Thursday, July 2, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - As COVID-19 cases show no sign of slowing and more people are ending up in the hospital with the virus, South Carolina officials said the recovery of jobs they hoped for has not materialized.

Nearly 17,000 people filed unemployment claims for the week ending June 27 in South Carolina, basically unchanged from the week before and higher than any other week before the pandemic in the past decade, the state Department of Employment and Workforce reported Thursday.

Since the pandemic began 15 weeks ago, about 636,000 people have filed jobless claims and the state has distributed more than $2.7 billion in unemployment benefits, the agency said.

The initial weeks of the pandemic had massive losses in restaurant, hotel and other hospitality jobs. Now, unemployment is spreading into manufacturing, health care and professional services, agency director Dan Ellzey said in a statement.

The evidence is in county numbers. Coastal counties led in jobless claims at the beginning of the pandemic. This week, Greenville and Richland counties top the list.

“The state is not seeing the movement week-over-week for which we hoped,” Ellzey said.

South Carolina has reported more than 1,000 newly diagnosed cases in 12 of the past 14 days - the only 1,000-plus case days since the virus was first detected in the state in early March.

Health officials diagnosed 1,629 new cases Thursday, which was the third day in a row with more than 1,600 newly reported COVID-19 infections.

The state reported 19 deaths Thursday - after reporting a record 24 deaths the day before. There are 1,125 people in the hospital with COVID-19, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported.

South Carolina ranks third in the nation in newly diagnosed cases over the past 14 days adjusted by population, trailing only Arizona and Florida.

State health officials said so many new cases are being diagnosed that health workers trained to track people exposed to newly infected patients can’t keep up. That contact tracing is one of the bulwarks of fighting the disease, public health experts have said.

Also on Thursday, Myrtle Beach City Council passed a mask ordinance to go into effect at the end of the day. Surrounding Horry County is one of the nation’s biggest hot spots for new COVID-19 cases. But the rest of the county has not pass a requirement for face coverings.

Myrtle Beach’s mask rules covers stores and restaurants when people aren’t eating. Masks aren’t required on the beach as long as families and other groups stay 6 feet (2 meters) apart.


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.


Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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