SC's lieutenant governor tests positive for COVID-19, begins home quarantine

©The State (Columbia, S.C.)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend, according to the Governor’s Office.

Evette, 53, first reported experiencing COVID-19 symptoms — a sore throat and a headache — Thursday morning, Gov. Henry McMaster’s spokesman Brian Symmes said.

Evette tested positive after keeping a busy schedule during the preceding two weeks, which included appearances at two women’s business centers and attendance at President Donald Trump’s Republican National Convention acceptance speech at the White House.

McMaster and his wife, Peggy, were each tested for the virus after learning of Evette’s test results.

Both tested negative.

“I’m fortunate to have had only mild symptoms and I’m already feeling much better. David (Evette’s husband) has taken GREAT care of me!” Evette wrote in a statement provided to reporters. “As careful as I’ve been, this really does show how easily the virus is spread. Please, continue to be diligent in keeping yourselves and your loved ones safe. If you’re showing any symptoms at all, the best thing to do is to get tested right away!”

Evette, a Republican, decided to isolate herself, and a paramedic working with the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control gave her a test Friday. Evette received her positive test results on Saturday.

Evette, her husband and one of her children have been under self-quarantine since Thursday. Her family has not reported experiencing symptoms for the virus, and so they have not been tested, Symmes said.

Two members of her staff and members of her security team also have self-quarantined, Symmes added.

“The lieutenant governor and her family are feeling much better and will continue the quarantine period at home. This really does go to show how contagious this virus is,” Symmes said, adding that Evette had worn a face mask, socially distanced and practiced all other public health recommendations.

DHEC officials have conducted contact tracing and have already reached out to anyone who had “close contact” with Evette for more than 15 minutes during the 48 hours before she began having COVID-19 symptoms, interim Public Health Director Brannon Traxler said.

“Thankfully, she was very on top of things,” Traxler said.

Traxler said people are contagious from two days before they start showing symptoms until 10 days after the symptoms start.

The lieutenant governor was not scheduled for any face-to-face functions on the Tuesday or Wednesday before she experienced symptoms, according to her public calendar.

Evette did not attend the S.C. GOP Silver Elephant Dinner on Friday.

Symmes and Traxler said there was no way to know where Evette was exposed to the virus. She could have contracted it anywhere between two and 14 days before showing symptoms.

According to news reports, on Tuesday of last week, Evette visited a suicide prevention center in Greenville as part of National Suicide Prevention Week.

On Sept. 2 and 3, Evette participated in the openings of women’s business centers at Benedict College in Columbia and at Community Works in Greenville. She also attended a race at the Darlington Speedway on Sept. 6 with the governor.

She also attended the state GOP’s RNC party on Aug. 28, and President Donald Trump’s White House speech on Aug. 27.

“There’s absolutely no reason to speculate where and when she got the virus,” Symmes said.

Evette will continue her duties from home, Symmes said.

She will be required to remain in quarantine for at least 10 days from the start of her symptoms. Before she can leave quarantine, she needs to go at least 24 hours without a fever and her symptoms have will also have to improve, Traxler said.

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©2020 The State (Columbia, S.C.)