South Carolina Coronavirus Death Toll Dramatically Lowered … Again

Even without mask requirements …

At a time when peak panic related to the coronavirus pandemic in South Carolina is ramping back up, one widely watched (albeit inconsistent) model is calling for a dramatically reduced death toll from the virus … again.

If that lede feels like Groundhog Day, it should … because projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle, Washington have fluctuated wildly for months as the virus has ebbed and flowed, raising concerns about the model’s credibility.

Two weeks ago, IHME modeling projected 2,379 South Carolinians would die from Covid-19 by October 1. At the time, the upper end of its curve allowed for as many as 8,688 coronavirus-related deaths.

Given recent spikes in confirmed cases – and a troubling trend of higher hospitalizations – we fully expected the latest IHME projections to push that estimate even higher.

We were wrong …

Late Wednesday, the institute updated its projections for South Carolinaand cut the projected death toll in half.

IHME is now calling for 1,172 coronavirus-related deaths in the Palmetto State by October 1, 2020 (including the 683 South Carolinians who have already succumbed to the virus since health officials began tracking it in early March).

IHME also narrowed its range of projected coronavirus-related fatalities, calling for a low-end estimate of 865 deaths and a high-end estimate of 1,712 deaths.

These totals could be reduced if all South Carolinians wore masks in public – as several municipalities have controversially mandated.

According to an alternative projection which presumed “universal” mask mandates in effect across the Palmetto State, projected deaths declined to 921 by October 1, 2020 – or 251 fewer projected deaths than the non-mask model.

The low-end estimate of the “mask model” was 799 projected deaths, while the high end was 1,105 projected deaths.

Again, for comparison purposes, the flu killed 292 people in 2017-2018 according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) – and that was a “severe season.”

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Do we buy these projections? As noted above, IHME has been all over the map in assessing the trajectory of this virus.

So we take its estimates cum oceanum salis

We also find it very odd that the institute is projecting a gradual decline in “hospital resource use” at a time when Covid-linked hospitalizations are on the rise. Just yesterday, SCDHEC announced that a record 832 hospital beds in the Palmetto State were occupied by patients either confirmed or suspected to be infected by the virus.

Do we really think this number is going to go down as cases continue to spike?

Again, we want to buy into this data (and we hope it proves prescient) … but given the spotty track record of this indicator and the prevalence of other data pointing to a worsening situation, we foresee another weather vane moment in its future.


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