Administrator: Rising COVID cases not only due to more testing

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

PICKENS — Acting Pickens County administrator Ken Roper echoes recent messages from President Donald Trump and Gov. Henry McMaster about the importance of wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What I feel like my duty is, is to encourage wearing masks,” he said.

Roper gave an update on COVID-19 case numbers during a Facebook Live video Thursday morning.

“We still see numbers continuing to rise statewide, throughout the nation and particularly here in Pickens County,” he said.

Every day the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control sends the county a report showing COVID numbers throughout the state, Roper said.

As of July 1, Pickens County had 502 active cases, he said.

“By active cases, they mean people who have tested positive for the coronavirus within the last 14 days,” Roper said. “So we’ve got 502 known positives in Pickens County that have been tested in the last 14 days.

“Every day we have new positives that come on and we have old, 15-day-old positives that drop off,” he continued.

Regarding positive COVID cases, Pickens County has been leading “a lot of similar-sized counties” and has more positive cases than some larger counties, Roper said.

“This is something that’s been disturbing,” he said. “We’re the 14th-largest county so you would think, just on average, shouldn’t we have the 14th-most cases? We don’t — we’re much higher than that.”

Spartanburg County, with a much larger population, only has about 100 more cases than Pickens County, Roper said.

Anderson County, also larger than Pickens County, has 230 fewer cases than Pickens County, he said.

“The last time I checked, we were eighth in the state, and we need to be doing better than that,” Roper said.

There’s been debate whether current numbers are the result of more testing or the spread of the virus, he said.

“One number that other people are putting out that I’ve been watching is of the people that are tested, what percentage of them are testing positive — and that number continues to grow,” Roper said. “What that probably suggests to us is this curve is not growing just because there’s more testing — it’s growing because the virus is more widespread. It’s not a great trend line, so we’re concerned about that.”

As of Thursday, Charleston County led the state with 3,034 active cases. Horry County was second with 2,106.

“The two leading the state, what do they have in common?” Roper said. “Tourist locations — places that you and I go this time of year, to go to the beach, to go to historic Charleston … all those places we all love to go. That probably tells you something. I don’t think it’s an accident.”

Greenville County was third in the state Thursday with 1,970 active cases.

“We’re so close to Greenville County that I think a lot of our numbers are coming from that,” Roper said.

Whereas Easley zip codes — those closest to Greenville County — had been the sources of the highest number of cases in Pickens County “now the ZIP codes that have the most are in Clemson and Central,” he said.

“So what would we attribute that to?” Roper said. “Clemson University — students at Clemson University. We’ve got to figure out a way to encourage our young people, our students which are an important part of our community, to practice good COVID-compliant practices.”

The city of Clemson and the town of Central both recently passed masking requirement ordinances, he said.

“I know the city of Easley is studying whether or not to have some type of ordinance like that,” Roper said. “I do not believe that there’ll be a countywide ordinance like that. I’m not a policy maker, but just based on what I’m seeing, I don’t believe that’s going to be the case.”

Wearing a mask is “a good thing,” he said.

“Wearing a mask protects your neighbor,” Roper said. “Wearing a mask protects your friends. It protects other folks in the stores that you’re going into.”

In the video, Roper assisted community relations manager Jamie Burns in demonstrating wearing and storing masks properly.

Those tips included washing or sanitizing your hands before you put on your mask.

“Make sure you only pick it up by the ear loops … or the back part of the tie, so you’re not touching the rest of the surface,” Burns said.

Masks should cover your chin and nose, she said.

“You may see people out that’s got it pushed down under their nose or even under their chin,” Burns said. “That kind of defeats the purpose. You’re trying to keep the respiratory droplets from spreading, so you’ve got to keep that area of your face covered in order for it to be effective.”

Roper echoed a recent message from McMaster about fall sports.

“If we want to see our favorite high school team play, if we want to see the Clemson Tigers play this fall, we in Pickens County need to get serious about wearing masks and staying away from each other when we can,” he said.

The full video update and demonstration can be found on the “Pickens County SC” Facebook page.