The number of new COVID-19 cases in South Carolina continues to trend downward, despite an adjustment in testing figures released by state health officials last week.
On Monday, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 526 new cases of COVID-19, and 10 new deaths from coronavirus-related causes.
The state is approaching the state’s third full week without cracking 1,000 in DHEC’s daily case count. It is longest such stretch since it first recorded more than 1,000 new cases in mid-June.
South Carolina appeared to reach the two-week mark last Monday, but DHEC reported a backlog of approximately 15,000 test results Tuesday and retroactively assigned the case figures to the proper dates.
On Monday, DHEC announced it had completed adding numbers released by a lab conducting tests for Clemson University to its statewide numbers. Going forward, the lab will report figures daily to the state health agency.
The average rate of positive tests continues to decline from the state’s high points in July, when it consistently topped 20%, but it is still above the 5% mark that health experts, including DHEC state epidemiologist Linda Bell, have cited as a goal.
On Sunday, the state recorded 6,635 individual test results, with a positive test rate of 8.2%. Health officials have said a high rate of testing is the best way to ensure accurate monitoring of test results.
Are all cases accounted for?
To account for lower test totals, officials have highlighted the importance of percentage of tests run that come back positive. Nationally, about 8.3% of tests have turned up positive, according to the CDC.
Officials have said there has been no reduction in testing capacity, but demand has slowed as “testing fatigue” sets in. The Department of Health and Human Services deployed a federal “surge testing team” that has set up free testing sites and opportunities in the Columbia area over the next several weeks.
Currently, there are 315 mobile testing events scheduled through Oct. 31 and there are 257 permanent COVID-19 testing facilities across the state.
State health officials have estimated that around 86% of South Carolinians who contract the virus don’t get tested.
DHEC also has been recording probable cases and probable deaths. A probable case is someone who has not received a lab test result 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 Monday, there were 12 new probable cases and one probable new death, DHEC reports. As of Sunday, a total of 1,386,564 tests have been conducted in the state.
Which counties are affected?
Richland County led the state in new cases on Monday, with 90, followed by Lexington County with 69, Greenville County with 65, Charleston County with 49 and Anderson County with 35.
Half of the deaths recorded on Monday were under the age of 65.
Richland reported four deaths, three of them people between the ages of 35 and 64. Lexington County also reported a “middle-aged” death, according to DHEC. Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Lee, Spartanburg and Williamsburg also reported one death each.
One Richland County middle-aged death was reported as “probable.” The death in Lee County was also a person between the ages of 35 and 64.
How are hospitals being impacted?
On Monday, 77% of the state’s hospital beds were occupied, and 10% of those patients had been diagnosed with COVID-19, 753 in-patient beds out of 7,655.
In intensive care, 172 beds were occupied by coronavirus patients, out of 1,037. One fifth of those hospital patients on ventilators are COVID-19 patients, 108 out of 510.
In total, 23% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are in intensive care, and 14% are on ventilators.
How is COVID-19 trending in SC?
The number of daily new cases reported in South Carolina hit a high of 2,343 on July 18. In the month after, totals slowly dropped.
The seven-day moving average of new cases rose again slightly in late August and early September, but it has since begun to dip again.
DHEC projects 4,066 new cases for this week.
State health officials have credited the overall decline in cases since July in part to a significant slowdown in virus activity in areas with face mask requirements and where residents are practicing social distancing. In particular, DHEC data have shown that the areas that implemented mask ordinances the earliest have seen the largest overall declines.
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Bristow Marchant covers local government, schools and community in Lexington County for The State. He graduated from the College of Charleston in 2007. He has more than 10 years of experience covering South Carolina at the Clinton Chronicle, Sumter Item and Rock Hill Herald. He joined The State in 2016. Bristow won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.
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