DHEC: 1,870 new cases of COVID-19, 56 additional deaths reported in SC

Updated: Jul. 21, 2020 at 3:09 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 1,870 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and 56 additional deaths on Tuesday.

This brings the total number of people with confirmed cases since the outbreak began to 73,101 and confirmed deaths to 1,203.

The dates of deaths reported Tuesday range from July 8 to July 20.

COVID-19 deaths in SC by date of death - 7/21/20
COVID-19 deaths in SC by date of death - 7/21/20(SCDHEC)

Of the 56 deaths reported, 40 were elderly individuals (ages 65 and up) from the following counties: Aiken (2), Beaufort (2), Berkeley (1), Charleston (11), Cherokee (1), Colleton (1), Dillon (1), Dorchester (2), Florence (2), Georgetown (1), Greenville (3), Greenwood (1), Horry (2), Jasper (1), Laurens (1), Lexington (2), Pickens (1), Richland (1), Spartanburg (2), and York (2).

There were 14 middle-aged individuals (ages 35 to 64) who were listed as confirmed deaths from the following counties: Beaufort (1), Charleston (4), Dorchester (3), Horry (1), Laurens (1), Newberry (1), Richland (2), and Spartanburg (1).

Two deaths occurred in young adults (18 to 34) from Orangeburg (1) and Darlington (1) counties.

DHEC also announced one new probable case and one new probable death. That brings the total of probable cases to 236 and the total number of probable deaths to 18 in the state since the outbreak began.

The lone probable death reported Tuesday was an individual from Aiken County. This death occurred on July 3, according to DHEC.

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

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 Tuesday, July 21:

  • Abbeville (5)
  • Aiken (10)
  • Allendale (5)
  • Anderson (64)
  • Bamberg (10)
  • Barnwell (8)
  • Beaufort (61)
  • Berkeley (61)
  • Calhoun (5)
  • Charleston (163)
  • Cherokee (14)
  • Chester (11)
  • Chesterfield (16)
  • Clarendon (14)
  • Colleton (20)
  • Darlington (38)
  • Dillon (14)
  • Dorchester (53)
  • Edgefield (5)
  • Fairfield (18)
  • Florence (67)
  • Georgetown (37)
  • Greenville (147)
  • Greenwood (31)
  • Hampton (25)
  • Horry (181)
  • Jasper (22)
  • Kershaw (33)
  • Lancaster (22)
  • Laurens (21)
  • Lee (6)
  • Lexington (110)
  • Marion (13)
  • Marlboro (7)
  • McCormick (4)
  • Newberry (13)
  • Oconee (7)
  • Orangeburg (40)
  • Pickens (39)
  • Richland (193)
  • Saluda (10)
  • Spartanburg (55)
  • Sumter (93)
  • Union (19)
  • Williamsburg (6)
  • York (74)

New probable case:

  • Charleston (1)

  • Negative diagnostic tests (all labs) - 506,998
  • Positive diagnostic tests (all labs) - 91,459
  • Total diagnostic tests - 598,457
  • Negative serology (antibody) tests - 45,784
  • Positive serology (antibody) tests - 2,806
  • Total serology (antibody) tests - 48,590
  • Negative tests of unknown type** - 1,611
  • Positive tests of unknown type** - 5
  • Total tests of unknown type** - 1,616
  • Total number of tests performed in South Carolina by DHEC and private labs - 648,663

*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.

On Monday, DHEC announced it surpassed its monthly testing goal for July by performing 143,336 tests from July 1 to July 16. The goal was 140,000 tests.

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.

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 8,490 tests reported to them statewide Monday was 22% (not including antibody tests).

Percent positive - 07/21/2020
Percent positive - 07/21/2020(SCDHEC)

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.

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

At this time, DHEC says hospitals are transitioning between systems used to report hospital bed and ICU occupancy, ventilator usage, patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and other key information. DHEC issued a Public Health Order supporting this transition on July 15, the day after the announcement was made that hospitals will transition from using the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) to the TeleTracking system.

While hospitals across the state work to implement the new federal reporting system, DHEC is able to report limited hospital bed occupancy information through the Bed Availability Report Tracking (BART) state database. BART doesn’t provide the same level of detail as the previously used NHSN system but allows DHEC to maintain surveillance of hospital capacity and usage until the TeleTracking system is fully implemented and used by hospitals statewide.

Based on information from BART, which is estimated to be accurate within 10%, as of yesterday, 9,598 hospital beds are in use (84% capacity) and 1,823 are available.

Of those hospitalized, 1,593 are COVID-19 patients.

Click here for more information on hospital bed occupancy by county.

For information on nursing homes and long-term care facilities impacted by the virus, click or tap here.

As of July 20, DHEC has estimated 87% 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 32,015 people. Of those people, 909 have unfortunately died.

Based on that information, DHEC estimates that about 27,062 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.

When looking at the confirmed numbers of cases and deaths, one could figure the death toll from the virus is about 1.64% in South Carolina.

However, DHEC estimates that for every confirmed case of the virus, there are up to nine other people in the community who have also been infected.

If that is the case, as DHEC suggests, there may have been more than 522,150 coronavirus cases in the state so far. That would mean the death toll could be more like 0.23%.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 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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