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Coronavirus in SC: new COVID-19 cases drop to 537, says DHEC


South Carolina reported the lowest number of new coronavirus cases and percent positives in more than two months on Sunday.

State health officials reported 537 new positive tests for COVID-19, and nine more confirmed deaths.

The case number was the lowest since 528 were reported on June 10. There were about 800 more tests Sunday than on June 10, when 4,078 patients were screened, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases in South Carolina to 105,466 and confirmed deaths to 2,165 since testing began in March.

Which counties were affected?

Charleston and Richland counties saw the largest increase in new coronavirus cases Sunday with 41 each, followed by Lexington County with 31.

Seven of the nine deaths were elderly individuals 65 or older, including two from Richland County, and one each in Charleston County, Dillon County, Florence County, Marlboro and Orangeburg counties. There were two middle-age deaths (35 to 64 years old) reported in Florence and Richland counties.

Overall, there have been 165 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Richland County, third most in South Carolina behind Greenville (213) and Charleston (200) counties. Lexington County has 118 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, according to DHEC.

How is COVID-19 trending in SC?

South Carolina had seen more than 1,000 new cases reported nearly every day since June 24, but cases have decreased in the state over the past week.

Last week, daily case counts ranged from 724 to 1,041, a sharp decline from the previous week. DHEC is projecting 7,171 cases over the next seven days.

State health officials said Wednesday that the virus’ progression is slowing thanks to local mask mandates and residents practicing social distancing and wearing masks. Cases have been slowly decreasing over the last seven days.

“This new data shows us what we already knew, wearing face masks works,” S.C. State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said in a written statement. “We’re strongly supportive of these local leaders’ initiatives that are centered on protecting the health and well-being of their communities.”

The percentage of COVID-19 tests that turn up positive each day — another indicator of the coronavirus’ spread — has recently lowered to 16.6% over the span of past six days.

On Sunday, 11% of tests reported were positive.

Nationally, about 8.7% of tests turn up positive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization suggests that the percent of positive tests should be below 5% before countries consider reopening.

In all, 929,805 tests have been completed since March.

How are deaths trending?

Deaths reported to DHEC officials each day are delayed, so each day’s release of death numbers results in cases being added to the state’s daily death counts for previous days. For example, the nine confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported Sunday occurred either on Friday or Saturday.

Regardless, the state has seen an increase in deaths starting in late June. Changes in the number of deaths tend to lag changes in case counts, according to DHEC. So, if cases begin to decrease, it will be a few weeks before deaths follow suit.

On its deadliest day, around July 20, 54 coronavirus-related deaths were reported in South Carolina. Sunday marked a significant drop in the daily death toll, after Saturday, when DHEC said 51 people died.

Are all cases accounted for?

State health officials estimate that up to 86% of South Carolinians who contract the virus don’t get tested.

As of Sunday, DHEC estimated that 743,586 people have likely contracted COVID-19 since March.

DHEC has also been recording probable cases and probable deaths.

A probable case is someone who has not received lab test results but has virus symptoms or a positive antibody test.

A probable death is someone who has not gotten a lab test but whose death certificate lists COVID-19 as a cause of death or a contributing factor.

On Sunday, state health officials reported 16 new probable cases and no new probable deaths. That brings the total number of probable cases up to 1,031 and total probable deaths to 104.

How are hospitals being impacted?

Starting in late June, the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients steadily increased.

Of the 1,161 people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus, 290 are in intensive care and, of those, 180 are on ventilators, state health officials said Sunday.

Of the 10,224 inpatient hospital beds in South Carolina, 7,946 or 77.9% were in use Sunday.

The number of coronavirus patients hospitalized at one time peaked at more than 1,700 on July 23, and the state has seen small decreases in those daily numbers since.

Some data since late July was unavailable, though, because DHEC is transitioning to a new tracking system, which would give more precise information about COVID-19-related hospital conditions.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has said the state is ready to implement a plan to create new bed space if hospitals become overburdened. He added he may require medical facilities to postpone elective procedures again.

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Lou Bezjak is the High School Sports Prep Coordinator for The (Columbia) State and (Hilton Head) Island Packet. He previously worked at the Florence Morning News and had covered high school sports in South Carolina since 2002. Lou is a two-time South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association.
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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.
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