SC health officials report 52 coronavirus deaths, 1,168 cases


South Carolina health officials reported Tuesday that 52 more people have died after contracting the coronavirus, bringing the statewide death toll up to 1,774.

Department of Health and Environmental Control officials also announced Tuesday that 1,168 more tested positive for the coronavirus.

That brings the total number of South Carolinians diagnosed with the virus since March up to 93,604 .

DHEC officials did not hold a briefing with reporters Tuesday.

Which counties were affected?

Greenville County saw the largest increase in coronavirus cases with 135 more people testing positive.

In the Midlands, 113 tested postive in Richland County, and 53 did in Lexington County.

The following counties saw residents die: Abbeville (1), Aiken (2), Barnwell (1), Beaufort (1), Berkeley (1), Charleston (8), Cherokee (3), Chester (1), Florence (1), Greenville (7), Greenwood (1), Horry (9), Lancaster (1), Laurens (3), Lexington (1), Orangeburg (2), Richland (2), Spartanburg (5), Union (1) and Williamsburg (2).

Are all cases accounted for?

State health officials estimate that as much as 86% of South Carolinians who contract the virus don’t get tested. As of Tuesday, they estimated that 668,600 people in all have likely contracted COVID-19 since March.

DHEC officials have also begun investigating what they are calling 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 Tuesday, officials reported seven new probable cases and two new probable deaths. In all, DHEC is investigating 586 probable cases and 73 probable deaths.

How are hospitals being impacted?

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

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 ever 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.

Of the 1,458 people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus, 355 are in intensive care and, of those, 254 are on ventilators, state health officials said Tuesday.

Only 321 of the state’s 1,437 total ICU beds are available. Across the state, 77.6% of ICU beds are in use.

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.

In Orangeburg County, the S.C. National Guard was called to build overflow tents for treating coronavirus patients when necessary. The tents will open in one or two weeks, according to media reports.

How is COVID-19 trending in SC?

South Carolina has seen more than 1,000 new cases reported nearly every day since June 24. New cases announced in the last five weeks accounted for nearly 68% of all cases since March. Last week, daily case counts ranged from 1,170 to 1,666. The week before, they fell between from 1,368 to 2,335.

The percentage of tests that turn up positive — another indicator of the coronavirus’ spread — has been high, hovering around 20% daily for the last 28 days.

On Tuesday, however, 18.3% of tests reported were positive, higher than what health officials saw in March and early April. In May, at its lowest point, the percentage of positive tests fell between 2% and 4% on average.

Nationally, about 8.7% of tests turn up positive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In all, 795,871 tests have been completed since March.

Why are case numbers up?

DHEC officials say case counts are surging because more people are leaving their homes as businesses reopen. Fewer people are practicing social distancing and wearing masks, they said.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has gradually reopened businesses since April 20, including restaurants, retailers, beaches, gyms and salons. Last week, he issued an order reopening the remaining closed businesses while putting in place a limited statewide mask rule.

Local officials have taken their own steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including in Columbia and Richland County where masks are now required.

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 52 confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported Monday dated as far back as July 24.

Regardless, the state has seen an increase in deaths starting in late June.

On its deadliest day, around July 20, the coronavirus took the lives of 55 South Carolinians.

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Emily Bohatch helps cover South Carolina’s government for The State. She also updates The State’s databases. Her accomplishments include winning multiple awards for her coverage of South Carolina’s prison system. She has a degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish from Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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