‘This must stop:’ Florence mayor addresses alarming rise in coronavirus cases

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Mayor Stephen Wukela warned residents on Monday about the accelerating rate of coronavirus cases in Florence.

Wukela said he recently received a “sobering” briefing from DHEC and MUSC about the local situation in Florence. DEHC reports Florence County now has 265 cases. “Keep in mind,” Wukela said, “we still have extremely limited testing and DHEC estimates the real rate in Florence County right now comes to 1,628 cases.”

More important, Wukela said, “is we have seen an alarming rise in the rate of cases in the past couple days. In particular, over a third of our cases have been reported in the last few days.”

Florence County had an increase of 9 percent in coronavirus cases on Sunday. He said Florence currently ranks 15th in the country for the daily growth rate of cases.

By comparison, Florence has three times the per capita infection rate of Horry County, twice the per capita infection rate of Charleston, and nearly the equivalent in Richmond County, which has been a hot spot for many weeks.

“If that rate continues over weeks or months, we could get into a situation where facilities are overburdened,” Wukela said. 

The mayor said he noticed a bit of nonchalance about social distancing rules happening in the city, “and as you can see, the rate of increase has been accelerating.” 

Wukela pointed to the number of young people going to parties, those going to church services and funerals, and that the home improvement stores are packed with customers.

“Folks, this must stop,” he said. “Here in Florence, the outbreak is not subsiding. We are not at the peak, we are not near the peak.”

How Florence will handle reopening business will be based on what the numbers will continue to show, the mayor added.

The mayor concluded by saying, “this is not a cause for panic. We should remain calm, though we must take the threat seriously – we must maintain our distance. While we must be separated for now, we are not alone. We will persevere together.”

Detailed data on the Florence situation can be found at the “Florence Area COVID-19 Situation Assessment UPDATE” at https://web.musc.educ/coronavirus-updates/epidemiology-project-florence.

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