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Vaccine arrives in S.C.; schools roll back in-person learning

COLUMBIA (AP) — Some frontline health care workers in South Carolina received vaccinations for COVID-19 on Monday as the state looks to quickly distribute its first shipments of the vaccine.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control said it received its first allocation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Monday. The agency anticipates nearly 43,000 doses to arrive by Wednesday, with an expected 200,000 to 300,000 doses by the end of the year. Critical health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities will be first in line to receive the vaccine.
“Our frontline healthcare workers have sacrificed so much for our people this year. Now, we’ve received the first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine and medical professionals across the state will begin receiving doses soon,” Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted Monday. “We are witnessing American ingenuity at its finest!”
Health officials asked the public to be patient as initial doses of the vaccine are limited and will go to vulnerable populations first. Among others included in the first half of the initial phase for vaccine distribution are certain first responders, medical staff in prisons and dialysis centers, coroners and hospice workers. Teachers and other school staff are included in the second half of the state’s vaccine plan.
By Monday morning, Conway Medical Center in Horry County was already vaccinating workers. The Horry County hospital has received 975 doses, and about 100 employees have already volunteered for the vaccine there, WPDE-TV reported. The Medical University of South Carolina said frontline workers and clinical leaders would be vaccinated Tuesday morning.
The general public may not get the vaccine until the spring or summer.
Also Monday, one of the state’s larger school districts, Richland One in Columbia, said it was switching back to all-virtual classes for at least the first two weeks of January, citing the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community. It is among a growing number of districts moving students back out of the classroom this month, even as the governor has insisted schools maintain in-person learning options five days a week.
McMaster, who has previously said he would take the vaccine if it were available, is planning to tour a facility that manufactures vaccine refrigerators and freezers in Summerville on Tuesday.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in South Carolina has risen over the past two weeks from about 1,405 new cases per day on Nov. 29 to 2,872 new cases per day on Dec. 13, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
On Monday, the health department reported 2,364 confirmed cases and 11 additional deaths. The state has seen at least 236,785 cases and 4,398 deaths due to the virus since the start of the outbreak, state health officials have said.
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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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