The Journal staff

PICKENS — Pickens County officials declared a state of emergency Friday after learning of the county’s first positive test for COVID-19.

 The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced 45 new cases of the pandemic coronavirus strain throughout the state on Friday, including the case in Pickens County, three new cases in Anderson County and five new cases in Greenville County. Later in the day, DHEC officials also announced that two more people had died of the virus in the state — both elderly patients with underlying health conditions — one in Charleston County and another in Florence County.

Details on the Pickens County case were limited, according to county officials, who said the person is in isolation.

The new cases took the total number statewide to 124 cases in 25 counties, according to DHEC. There have now been three deaths in the state due to the virus.

Pickens County officials announced the state of emergency late Friday afternoon, with the order to take effect immediately and run until April 6.

“This declaration will allow the creation of a task force of personnel connected to the county’s Emergency Operations Center to take measures to protect at-risk populations,” a message posted on the county’s Facebook page said. “It will also allow access to essential tools, such as funding reimbursements and emergency procurement, as response to this pandemic may necessitate. Pickens County will remain vigilant in its preparation, response and recovery and will provide updated information as it becomes available.”

The county said local health officials urge residents to make sure the information they get about the virus comes from official government sources.

“As emergency workers continue to respond and provide the public with the best level of service possible, please monitor credible media services to get accurate information,” the county’s Facebook post said.

DHEC said those with signs of illness should stay at home and not attend public gatherings. South Carolinians are encouraged to monitor for symptoms, practice social distancing, avoid touching frequently touched items and regularly wash their hands, especially after being in a public place.

“The public needs to take our recommendations to prevent spread seriously so we can best protect our family, friends and neighbors,” state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said. “Unfortunately, these case numbers will continue to increase. The agency is working around the clock to prevent the spread of this disease, focusing on those who are most high-risk for experiencing severe illness from the disease. I’d like to remind all South Carolinians that we all have a responsibility to take the recommended steps for limiting spread.”