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DHEC director takes leave of absence

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Rick Toomey, director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, is taking a medical leave of absence as the state agency continues to battle COVID-19.

In a letter to DHEC staff, Toomey said he needs to step away to deal with health concerns. He referenced checking into a hospital several weeks ago with chest pain. While cardiac tests conducted then were negative, the letter said, his blood pressure was elevated, and medication has not “achieved the desired results,” Toomey wrote.

“In order to be part of Team DHEC for the long term, I need to deal with my health in the short term,” Toomey wrote. He said he expects to be away for two to three weeks.

Marshall Taylor, DHEC general counsel, will serve as acting director during Toomey’s absence.

DHEC officials said Toomey’s action is not related to new coronavirus concerns.

Toomey was named DHEC director in December 2018. Nick Davidson, DHEC acting director of public health, is leading the agency’s coronavirus efforts and response.

On Thursday, DHEC announced two COVID-19-related deaths in South Carolina, bringing the state total to nine. One patient was an elderly person from Kershaw County with underlying health conditions, while the second was an elderly person from Sumter County with underlying health conditions, DHEC said.

The agency said it was investigating 32 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 456 cases in 39 counties.

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