South Carolina health officials announced Monday that 543 more of the Palmetto State’s residents tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of people in the state who have tested positive for the virus since March up to 111,202.
Department of Health and Environmental Control officials also reported that seven more South Carolinians died after testing positive for the virus. The reported death toll has now reached 2,387.
But the lower case numbers, while promising, could be misleading because the state has been reporting fewer overall tests over the last month. State health officials have said that is due to fewer people wanted to get tested.
Which counties were affected?
Charleston County saw the largest increase in confirmed coronavirus cases Monday with 81. In the Midlands, Richland County saw 48 people test positive, and Lexington County saw 18.
Anderson County saw four resident die, three of which were elderly and one who was middle-aged. Florence County saw one middle-aged resident die, and Greenville and Laurens counties each saw one elderly resident die.
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 Monday, they estimated that 749,322 people in all 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 Monday, state health officials reported 19 new probable cases and no new probable deaths. That brings the total number of probable cases up to 1,349 and total probable deaths to 124.
How is COVID-19 trending in SC?
South Carolina has seen more than 1,000 new cases reported nearly every day since June 24, though cases have fallen below 1,000 in recent days. Last week, daily case counts ranged from 451 to 967, a decline from the previous week, when the daily case count ranged from 712 to 1,015.
State health officials said Friday 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.
However, part of the drop in case numbers may be due to labs performing fewer tests, DHEC officials have said. For example, labs were clearing about 10,000 tests from mid-July to early August. Starting Aug. 4, the state started reporting fewer completed tests each day, reaching as low as 3,847 tests performed on Aug. 12.
The percentage of COVID-19 tests that turn up positive each day — another indicator of the coronavirus’ spread — has lowered in the last few weeks from around 20% daily to about 18% on average.
On Friday, 13.3% of tests reported were positive, similar to what health officials saw in March and early April and higher than what the percent positive has been in recent days. 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, and the World Health Organization suggests that the percent of positive tests should be below 5% before countries consider reopening.
In all, the state has reported 958,722 tests completed since March.
HOW ARE DEATHS TRENDING?
Because of a delay in the reporting of some deaths, the number of deaths the state reports each day often includes deaths from previous days, causing increases in previous days’ death counts. For example, the seven confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported Monday dated as far back as August 18.
The state has seen an increase in deaths starting in late June. Changes in the number of deaths tend to lag behind changes in the number of cases, according to DHEC. So, if cases begin to decrease, it will be a few weeks before deaths follow suit, officials have said.
On its deadliest day, around July 20, the coronavirus took the lives of 55 South Carolinians.
How are hospitals being impacted?
Starting in late June, the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients steadily increased.
Of the 979 people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus, 248 are in intensive care and, of those, 148 are on ventilators, state health officials said Monday.
Across the state, 2,498 of 10,133 total hospital beds are available, meaning 75% of beds are in use.
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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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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