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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster looks on at a rally in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., June 25, 2018. Photo by Kevin La...

South Carolina governor tests positive for coronavirus

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has tested positive for the coronavirus and was slated to receive outpatient antibody treatment for “mild symptoms,” his office said Tuesday.

McMaster, 73, learned he had tested positive late Monday following a test “due to coming into close contact with the COVID-19 virus,” his office said in a release. McMaster’s wife, 73-year-old Peggy McMaster, tested positive last week but remains asymptomatic, officials said.

On the advice of his personal physician, the governor was slated to receive monoclonal antibody treatment Tuesday, which his office called a “preventative measure for those with mild to moderate symptoms.” Saying that McMaster was in “good spirits” and continued to carry on his official duties, his office said the governor was “experiencing mild symptoms with a cough and slight fatigue.”

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The governor was tested last week at the same time as his wife but had a negative result at the time, his office said.

Both McMasters had attended a Christmas event at the White House earlier last week and took a “precautionary, routine test” Thursday. Citing state public health officials, McMaster’s office said Tuesday “there is no way to pinpoint precisely when or how Gov. McMaster or the First Lady contracted the virus.”

Since that time, Peggy McMaster planned to isolate for 10 days, while the governor’s office said he would quarantine for a week while testing regularly and continuing his official duties. Given his positive test, officials said Tuesday the governor would isolate for the next 10 days “and monitor for additional symptoms.”

The governor’s illness comes on the same day South Carolina’s health board selected a retired military doctor to head the state’s health and environmental department. After months without a permanent director at the helm of the agency overseeing South Carolina’s coronavirus response, the Department of Health and Environmental Control board unanimously voted Tuesday for Dr. Edward Simmer, who previously oversaw civilian medical and dental care for the Defense Health Agency in Virginia and served three decades in the Navy. The board-certified psychiatrist also holds a master’s degree in public health.

On Tuesday, South Carolina public health officials announced there had been 2,055 new positive tests for the coronavirus, as well as 15 new deaths. Over the course of the pandemic, there have been 257,340 positive tests in the state and 4,602 confirmed deaths.

A number of South Carolina officials, including Lt. Gov. Pam Evette and U.S. Reps. Joe Cunningham and Tom Rice, have previously contracted and recovered from COVID-19, as did Nancy Mace, the Republican who unseated Cunningham in the November election.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson also announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus, the same day he gave a floor speech in the House of Representatives.