Despite a single-day increase in new coronavirus cases, South Carolina appears to be in the midst of a four-week downward trend in cases, officials said on Friday.
That drop, however, may be due in part to fewer tests being conducted.
Dr. Brannon Traxler, a physician consultant for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, said the agency is continuing to emphasize preventative measures like mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing, and is working to get more people tested.
Increasing that rate could prove critical.
Here are charts showing how SC #COVID19 cases are falling at the same time test results are droppinghttps://t.co/lNnrKWMmZ9 pic.twitter.com/EprLTvgh0a
— Andy Shain (@AndyShain) August 14, 2020
DHEC data shows case rates have fallen in line with drops in testing. The percentage of positive tests each day is still too high, suggesting that there is a high level of coronavirus activity, Traxler said.
“Testing for COIVD-19 is absolutely essential,” she said.
People with asymptomatic or very mild cases may not realize they have the coronavirus and spread it around their households and communities, Traxler said.
She and other officials encourage anyone concerned they might have been exposed to the virus, or who is concerned about symptoms they’re feeling, to get tested and to self-isolate until cleared.
Legislators, meanwhile, have been frustrated by the falling testing rate and reports of lengthy delays for coronavirus test results.
They’ve called for DHEC to increase its testing goal to 10 percent of the state’s population, a rate that Traxler said is reachable.
“We are doing everything we can to increase testing,” she said. “It’s not just to increase numbers, it’s to beat the spread of the disease.”
Turnaround times for coronavirus test results have improved, despite some delays reported by private labs, Traxler said.
Authorities are hoping to increase testing through the fall, especially as schools reopen.
As of Friday, 129 mobile testing events had been scheduled through mid-October. Visit scdhec.gov/covid19mobileclinics for information about those events, and scdhec.gov/covid19testing for a roster of permanent testing facilities.
Number of new cases reported: 1,015
Total number of cases in S.C.: 103,880, plus 961 probable cases
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Number of new deaths reported: 16
Total number of deaths in S.C.: 2,106, plus 98 probable deaths
Number of hospitalized patients: 1,296
Percent of tests that were positive: 15.0 percent
Total number of tests in S.C.: 912,936
Which areas are hardest hit?
Charleston County led the state with 105 new cases reported on Friday, while Richland reported 88 and Florence saw 53.
What’s happening in the tri-county region?
In addition to the 105 new cases in Charleston County, Berkeley reported 30 and Dorchester 46.
Authorities also are determining whether two deaths reported on Friday, one in Charleston and one in Dorchester, had COVID-19.
Of the 16 deaths confirmed on Friday, four were 35 to 64 years old and 12 were 65 or older. They lived in Aiken, Bamberg, Calhoun, Clarendon, Darlington, Florence, Laurens, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland and York counties.
Authorities are investigating to determine whether three more deaths were COVID-19 related. Those victims had lived in Charleston, Dorchester and Horry counties.
DHEC reported that 1,296 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized as of Friday. Of these, 198 were on ventilators and 327 were in intensive care.
What do experts say?
Officials continue to urge basic precautions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus: social distancing, wearing a mask in public, avoiding group gatherings, regularly washing hands and staying home when sick.
Reach Sara Coello at 843-937-5705 and follow her on Twitter @smlcoello.