For the sixth consecutive day, COVID-19 hospitalizations in South Carolina have increased — representing a potentially dangerous trend as the state enters a crucial period in the pandemic, according to health experts.
On Wednesday, 607 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across South Carolina, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC). This is the highest number reported since the state began tracking the metric in early May.
Wednesday’s reported coronavirus hospitalizations are up 16 percent from the previous 7-day average and up 26 percent from the daily average two weeks ago.
Take a look below (note the empty spaces indicate days in which SCDHEC did not report hospitalization numbers).
South Carolina has been named in several national news articles recently as one of a handful of states seeing increasing hospitalization numbers. Specifically, Vox named it one of “8 states that experts worry are the new Covid-19 hot spots” due to increasing cases, test positivity rates, and hospitalizations.
South Carolina was one of the first states to lift COVID-19 lockdowns and open businesses, beginning on May 4.
For the first time in this pandemic, a South Carolina county reached reported 100 percent hospital bed capacity. Chester County, South Carolina — which only has reported 127 cases total and one confirmed death — showed its hospitals were at capacity Tuesday, according to SCDHEC.
Beaufort County showed the second highest hospital bed occupancy rate at 86 percent capacity.
Beaufort County includes Hilton Head Island, where the RBC Heritage PGA tournament will be played without spectators this week. Hilton Head’s COVID-19 cases have nearly quadrupled since Memorial Day, particularly around the point tourism surged on the island.
The Charleston region is another area of particular concern for experts, according to the the Medical University of South Carolina’s COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project.
A news release from MUSC indicates the tri-county Charleston region (including Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties) is headed for dangerous territory, but it is not too late.
“We have three key indicators in the red zone now. One, the growth rate of infections has surpassed 5%. It’s now 5.3%,” Michael Sweat, Ph.D., who leads the COVID-19 tracking team at MUSC said. “The previous week’s growth rate was 3.6%, which kept it in the yellow zone.”
“Two, we’ve had two weeks of increases in the number of cases,” Sweat said
“And three, we have an indicator that relates to the number of cases per population,” Sweat said in the release. “So when you get more than five per every 10,000 residents in a week, that triggers a red. For our population size in Charleston, that five per 10,000 equals 388 cases in a week. We just had 589 cases in a week. So that went red as well.”
Sweat urged in the release that now is the time to take the virus seriously — because it is still manageable considering there is still “plenty of hospital space.”
“People need to know that it’s growing all of a sudden, and quickly,” Sweat said in the news release. “Every percentage point increase just magnifies the challenge of getting it back down again.”
According to SCDHEC, Horry, Chesterfield, Chester York, Spartanburg, Anderson, Marion, Orangeburg, Lexington, and Sumter counties are reporting more than 75 percent hospital bed occupancy.
“As of this morning, 3,087 inpatient hospital beds are available and 7,411 are in use, which is a 70.59% statewide hospital bed utilization rate. Of the 7,411 inpatient beds currently used, 607 are occupied by patients who have either tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19,” SCDHEC said in its release Wednesday.
Increasing cases.. not due to testing
SCDHEC announced 577 new cases and 10 deaths Wednesday as daily reported cases have been mostly ticking upward for the last few weeks — increasing at higher rates than most of the country.
Take a look at the daily cases reported since March 6.
For the past 14 days, South Carolina officials have reported more than 350 daily COVID-19 cases. Keep in mind, before May 30, South Carolina hadn’t reported more than 300 new daily cases ever.
In April, South Carolina averaged 170 COVID-19 cases per day. In May, that number jumped to 190 cases per day. So far in June, that number surged to an average of 509 new coronavirus cases per day.
The recent surge is not due to the state’s expanded testing. South Carolina still ranked 40th in the nation this week when it comes to coronavirus testing per capita, according to data from The Covid Tracking Project.
The percentage of positive case per test has also been ticking upward, another alarming sign that COVID-19 isn’t anywhere near contained in South Carolina.
On Tuesday, 13.1 percent of tests had positive results.
In total, more than 20,000 have tested positive for COVID-19 in South Carolina and 617 people have died.
On Wednesday, “nine of the deaths occurred in elderly individuals from Beaufort (1), Berkeley (1), Colleton (1), Greenville (1), Horry (1), Lancaster (1), Lexington (2), and York (1) counties, and one (1) death occurred in an middle-aged individual from Charleston County,” the press release said.
So far this month, South Carolina has averaged about seven deaths per day, which is down from May at about 8 COVID-19 deaths per day, but up from April which averaged 6 deaths per day.
The recovery rate for those who have tested positive for coronavirus has decreased in the last week, dropping four percentage points from 83 percent last Monday to 79 percent this week.
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