SC surpasses 1,000 COVID-19 deaths as hospitalizations hit another record-high

Nearly 1,600 people are hospitalized and 214 are on ventilators.

CDC recommends masks in public settings

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 1,842 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and 69 newly-reported deaths on Thursday.

While this record-high number of deaths was reported Thursday, DHEC made clear the deaths date back several weeks.

The earliest death reported happened June 26. The others happened between then and now. See the breakdown of when these deaths happened by clicking or tapping here.

To explain the reason for the delay, DHEC said this happens because they have to ensure the death is accurately reported.

“A cause of death is determined by a medical certifier or a coroner,” officials explained. “As announced in late April, DHEC has implemented a cross analysis methodology to ensure an individual’s death is accurately reported. This includes comparing the initial information reported to the agency to the information included on an individual’s official death certificate.”

Thursday’s announcement brings the total number of people with confirmed cases since the outbreak began to 63,880 and confirmed deaths to 1,053.

Of the confirmed deaths, 55 were elderly people (65 and older) from Anderson (1), Beaufort (3), Charleston (11), Chester (1), Chesterfield (1), Colleton (3), Darlington (1), Dillon (2), Florence (1), Georgetown (1), Greenville (13), Greenwood (1), Horry (4), Kershaw (1), Lancaster (1), Lexington (3), Orangeburg (1), Pickens (1), Richland (3), Spartanburg (1), and Williamsburg (1) counties.

Fourteen of the deaths were middle-aged individuals (35 to 64) from Berkeley (2), Charleston (1), Greenville (3), Greenwood (1), Lexington (2), Orangeburg (3), Pickens (1), and Richland (1) counties.

This chart shows COVID-19 deaths in South Carolina by the date the person actually died.
This chart shows COVID-19 deaths in South Carolina by the date the person actually died. (Source: DHEC)

DHEC also announced four new probable cases on Thursday, as well as three new probable deaths. That means there is a total of 203 probable cases and 17 probable deaths in the state since the outbreak began.

The three probable deaths were two elderly people from Abbeville (1) and Spartanburg (1) counties, and one individual whose age is being confirmed from Saluda County (1).

For more information about why DHEC reports probable cases and deaths, keep reading.

In anticipation of South Carolina passing this grim milestone, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin released a statement Thursday criticizing Gov. Henry McMaster and saying the state has made “grave missteps.”

“For several months (McMaster) has ignored basic public health advice, science, research and data,” Benjamin wrote. “Our state could have escaped this avoidable moment.”

McMaster has said he is doing all that is in his power to control the spread of COVID-19. He urges everyone to wear a mask and social distance.

The governor said he will not enact a statewide mask mandate because it is not enforceable.

Benjamin said the state should consider another stay-at-home policy, though he admitted the idea was “painful and difficult.”

RECENT COVID-19 HEADLINES

“If we can combine the physical distancing that we learned was effective in the Spring, combined with increased levels of wearing masks by the public, then epidemiological evidence indicates we can reverse the upward trend in cases in potentially just one month,” Benjamin said. “At that point we can possibly have conversations about safely reopening our schools and other institutions that require large groups to be in close contact.”

Included in this article is context on testing, recoveries, hospitalization, death rates, and more. That information is provided in detail below the info on new cases.

New confirmed cases by county as of Thursday, July 16:

  • Abbeville (5)
  • Aiken (32)
  • Allendale (9)
  • Anderson (66)
  • Bamberg (16)
  • Barnwell (13)
  • Beaufort (108)
  • Berkeley (67)
  • Calhoun (18)
  • Charleston (230)
  • Cherokee (4)
  • Chester (16)
  • Chesterfield (11)
  • Clarendon (9)
  • Colleton (13)
  • Darlington (16)
  • Dillon (9)
  • Dorchester (64)
  • Edgefield (3)
  • Fairfield (23)
  • Florence (58)
  • Georgetown (23)
  • Greenville (230)
  • Greenwood (17)
  • Hampton (10)
  • Horry (142)
  • Jasper (16)
  • Kershaw (14)
  • Lancaster (25)
  • Laurens (18)
  • Lee (7)
  • Lexington (58)
  • Marion (6)
  • McCormick (7)
  • Newberry (18)
  • Oconee (16)
  • Orangeburg (80)
  • Pickens (27)
  • Richland (125)
  • Saluda (1)
  • Spartanburg (90)
  • Sumter (30)
  • Union (4)
  • Williamsburg (13)
  • York (75)

New probable cases by county:

  • Abbeville (1)
  • Aiken (1)
  • Saluda (1)
  • Spartanburg (1)


COVID-19 TESTING IN SOUTH CAROLINA*

  • Negative diagnostic tests (all labs) - 459,649
  • Positive diagnostic tests (all labs) - 80,112
  • Total diagnostic tests - 539,761
  • Negative serology (antibody) tests - 43,957
  • Positive serology (antibody) tests -2,306
  • Total serology (antibody) tests - 46,263
  • Negative tests of unknown type** - 1,538
  • Positive tests of unknown type** - 5
  • Total tests of unknown type** - 1,543
  • Total number of tests performed in South Carolina by DHEC and private labs - 587,567

*These numbers represent the volume of tests received and not distinct individuals tested. Individuals could have multiple tests.

**Unknown test types refer to tests with an unrecognized type. As (DHEC) continues to investigate unknown test types they will be reassigned as more information becomes available.

>> To find a COVID-19 testing site near you, click or tap here.

While testing during the outbreak has not always been provided in such detail, DHEC officials made clear they have not counted any positive antibody tests as positive COVID-19 cases.

Antibody tests determine if a person has COVID-19 antibodies in their system, meaning they had a previous infection. It does not test for an active infection.

TRACKING PERCENT POSITIVE

The recent spike in cases in South Carolina is not just due to more testing, DHEC officials have said repeatedly.

Percent positive refers to the number of people who test positive for COVID-19 in relation to the number of tests being performed. The percent positive has remained high since early June.

DHEC says the percent positive from 8,643 tests reported to them statewide Wednesday was 21.3% (not including antibody tests).

When daily case numbers are high and the percent positive is high, that indicates more virus spread in the community, DHEC said.

The following chart shows the percent positive over the past 28 days.

This chart shows the percent of tests which came back positive over the past 28 days.
This chart shows the percent of tests which came back positive over the past 28 days. (Source: DHEC)

To see the percent positive since the outbreak began in South Carolina, use the chart below and click on “Testing.”

COVID-19 HOSPITALIZATION

DHEC says as of Thursday morning, 1,578 people are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or are under investigation for the possibility of having the virus. Of those patients, 214 are currently on ventilators.

The number of patients hospitalized Thursday is the highest seen so far in the state since the outbreak began. It went up by 18 people from Wednesday.

Of all inpatient hospital beds in the state, 7,935 beds are in use and 2,946 beds are available, meaning about 72.93% of all beds in the state are in use.

COVID-19 RECOVERIES

As of July 13, DHEC has estimated 92% of people who didn’t die from the virus, and that they have “symptom onset data” for, have recovered. They only have that data for 26,689 people. Of those people, 766 have unfortunately died.

Based on that information, DHEC estimates that about 23,849 of those people have recovered so far. The rest of those people are still fighting the virus, DHEC says.

Note that this data is only available for fewer than half of the total COVID-19 cases reported in South Carolina.

COVID-19 DEATH RATE

When looking at the confirmed numbers of cases and deaths, one could figure the death toll from the virus is about 1.65% in South Carolina.

If that is the case, as DHEC suggests, there may have been more than 443,364 coronavirus cases in the state so far. That would mean the death toll could be more like 0.24%.

WHAT ARE PROBABLE COVID-19 CASES AND DEATHS?

On June 18, DHEC announced it would begin reporting probable cases and deaths. A probable case, according to DHEC officials, is an individual who has not had a confirmatory viral test performed but meets the following qualifications:

  • Has epidemiologic evidence and clinical evidence of infection, or
  • A positive antibody blood test and either epidemiologic evidence or clinical evidence.

A probable death, according to DHEC, is a person whose death certificate lists COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 as a cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death but did not undergo confirmatory viral testing.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO TO HELP

South Carolinians are encouraged to monitor for symptoms, practice social distancing, avoid touching frequently touched items (such as doorknobs and handrails), and regularly wash their hands, especially after being in a public place.

To help protect against COVID-19, DHEC encourages everyone to wear a mask covering whenever in public. When wearing a mask, South Carolinians should:

  • Make sure you can breathe through it
  • Wear it whenever going out in public
  • Make sure it covers your nose and mouth
  • Wash your hands before taking it on or off
  • Wash after using

You should not:

  • Use on children under age 2
  • Touch the front of the mask
  • Use surgical masks needed by healthcare workers

DHEC says homemade masks can reduce the chance of people spreading the virus and keep them from touching their face. They are recommended to be worn in places where social distancing is difficult -- grocery stores, pharmacies, etc...

People who have the virus but aren’t showing symptoms can reduce their chance of spreading the virus by wearing a mask, so everyone is recommended to wear one.

For a video tutorial on how to make your own mask, click or tap here.

Individuals with signs of illness are asked to stay at home and not attend public gatherings.

FACTS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is spread mainly from person-to-person by those in close contact, or through coughing and sneezing by someone who’s infected.

Symptoms of the coronavirus can show up between two and 14 days of exposure, health officials say. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

For most people, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But some severe cases can lead to death.

Most people can recover from the virus at home using over-the-counter medications to treat their symptoms.

Some people who have the virus don’t show any symptoms, but they can still spread it to others. The CDC estimates that up to 35% of all cases are asymptomatic.

Protecting Yourself from Coronavirus (May 2020)

Those who are at the highest risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19 are the elderly and those who are already being treated for chronic medical diseases.

The CDC says about 3% of people who show symptoms of the virus need to be hospitalized, but that percentage is doubled for seniors.

Young people who contract the virus are not likely to have a serious case, research shows. However, the CDC said about 40% of people who needed to be hospitalized due to the coronavirus are between the ages of 18 and 64.

Those who are hospitalized with serious cases of COVID-19 have trouble breathing, and many need support from ventilators, which breathe for them. The U.S. is working to produce more of the machines to prepare, but experts fear a shortage of life-saving devices.

Children are the least likely to develop COVID-19. However, a serious but rare inflammatory condition in children has been linked with the coronavirus. Click or tap here to read more about that.

The mortality rate for people with the virus was first widely reported around 2 to 3%, but health experts noted at the time that the actual percentage was not that high, as not all cases are diagnosed or reported.

As of mid-May, the CDC estimates about 0.4% of people who get COVID-19 will die from it.

The rate is higher than the flu, which kills on average about 0.1% of people who get it, based on a 10-year average of data from the CDC.

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Anyone with concerns about their health, or who believes they are showing symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider. Avoid going to the doctor or an emergency room unless the situation is life-threatening.

People without a doctor can take advantage of free online screening from Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

MUSC has an online platform to aid with coronavirus diagnosis and care. Go to musc.care and access the COVID-19 platform. The service is free with code: COVID19.

Prisma Health also has a free virtual visit, which allows patients to video conference with a doctor instead of coming into a facility. The goal is to keep patients who don’t need to be treated at a hospital at home. Go to prismahealth.org/virtual-visit and use promo code COVID19 for a free virtual visit.

For more information on COVID-19, click or tap here to visit the CDC’s website.

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