South Carolina authorities break up huge party amid pandemic

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COLUMBIA (AP) — Authorities in South Carolina broke up a party where at least 2,000 people were gathered without taking precautions to prevent spreading the coronavirus, fire officials said.

The gathering occurred Saturday at an apartment complex during the University of South Carolina's football game, Columbia Fire Department spokesman Mike DeSumma told The State. Fire department photos show a huge crowd of young people with little evidence of face masks or social distancing.

Some people threw bottles at crews as they arrived to answer a medical call, DeSumma said. Sheriff's deputies and university police helped break up the party after fire officials declared it an imminent danger.

"There were so many people there that our responders had trouble getting in," DeSumma said. "If we had come out for a fire or an emergency situation it would have been impossible to get in."

The fire chief planned to meet with apartment managers Monday to discuss what happened.

No citations were issued to partygoers, DeSumma said, but not wearing a mask is a civil infraction with a fine up to $25, and businesses face a $100 penalty, according to a pandemic ordinance in Richland County.

At least 3,650 people in South Carolina have died of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University. The state is 14th highest per capita in the nation for deaths, and the daily rolling average of new cases is up more than 15% over the last two weeks.

While COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms in most people, it can be deadly for the elderly and people with other, serious health conditions.