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South Carolina health officials Friday reported 1,086 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 27 deaths from the virus.
The five-day high in confirmed cases comes as health officials reported more coronavirus tests Friday than any day this week.
Just more than 5% of the 32,875 COVID-19 tests reported Friday returned positive results, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider a COVID-19 positivity rate at or below 5% to represent “low” transmission.
DHEC, which recently changed the way it calculates percent positivity, determines the rate by taking the total number of positive viral tests and dividing those by the total number of tests taken. The number of cases is lower than the number of positive tests because some people take multiple tests.
COVID-19 hospitalizations, which have declined steadily since mid-January, dropped again Friday to 916, their lowest point since late November.
Since March of last year, the state has reported 441,697 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,528 deaths from the virus.
South Carolina counts an additional 71,598 cases, including 334 Friday, as probable positives. They also count another 949 deaths, including eight Friday, as probable COVID-19 deaths.
DHEC defines a probable case as someone who has had a positive antigen test or has virus symptoms and is at high risk for infection. Probable deaths are ones where the death certificate lists COVID-19 as the cause of or a contributing factor to death, but the person was not tested for the virus.
The state has reported a cumulative total of 513,295 probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8,477 probable and confirmed deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
As of Friday, South Carolina had received 594,950 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and 489,600 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The agency reported Friday that 395,370 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 187,775 first doses of the Moderna vaccine had been administered so far. Another 172,909 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 81,783 second doses of the Moderna vaccine also have been administered.
Administrations of the Moderna vaccine currently lag behind Pfizer administrations because Moderna shots had originally been used exclusively to vaccinate long-term care facility residents and staff as part of a federal pharmacy partnership. In recent weeks, the Moderna vaccine, which does not have the same ultra-cold storage requirements as the Pfizer vaccine, has been shipped to pharmacies, federally qualified health centers and other providers, and its uptake is expected to increase.
Health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, and all people age 65 and older are currently eligible to receive vaccinations.
In addition to the 838,000 first and second vaccine doses that have been administered, South Carolinians have scheduled another 508,000 vaccination appointments, DHEC said.
Anyone eligible to receive a vaccine who would like to get one can use DHEC’s locator tool to find a provider with availability near you at www.scdhec.gov/vaxlocator. For those who lack internet access, DHEC has launched a phone line — 866-365-8110 — where operators are available every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to help people searching for information about vaccine providers.
State health officials advise South Carolinians to continue taking measures to mitigate spread of COVID-19 as the vaccination rollout progresses in the months ahead.
DHEC urges anyone who is symptomatic or who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 to get tested themselves and recommends routine monthly testing for anyone who is out and about in the community, even if they are asymptomatic.
To find a testing location near you, visit DHEC’s website at scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-testing-locations.
How are hospitals being impacted?
The number of COVID-19 inpatients statewide dropped Thursday to 916, 63% lower than their peak of 2,466 in mid-January. Coronavirus patients account for 10.2% of all hospital inpatients.
Of those hospitalized with COVID-19, 212 are in intensive care units, and 113 are on ventilators, according to DHEC.
Total hospital bed occupancy, which has hovered around 80% for months, was at 79% Thursday, while ICU bed occupancy was 74%, data show.
In Richland County, 72% of hospital beds were occupied Thursday, and in Lexington County, 91% of beds are full, data show.
Which counties were affected?
COVID-19 cases have fallen significantly in all regions over the past month, but remain highest in the Upstate.
Greenville County, the state’s most populous county, has reported more than twice as many cases as any other county in South Carolina over the past three months.
In the Upstate Friday, Greenville again led all counties with 161 COVID-19 cases, followed by Spartanburg County with 108 cases, according to DHEC.
COVID-19 cases in the Midlands remain slightly below the Upstate’s numbers. Richland led all Midlands counties Friday with 73 cases, followed by York with 55 and Lexington with 52.
The number of positive tests in the state’s Pee Dee and Lowcountry regions are below the Upstate and the Midlands, and have returned to pre-holiday season levels.
Horry County’s 69 confirmed COVID-19 cases were the most in the PeeDee Friday, while Charleston County’s 71 cases were the most in the Lowcountry.
Of the 27 confirmed deaths reported Friday, 22 were elderly (65 and older) and five were middle-aged individuals (ages 35-64), according to DHEC.
South Carolinians from infancy to age 106 have died after contracting COVID-19, but the disease has taken the greatest toll on elderly residents.
The average age of all South Carolinians who have died from coronavirus complications is 76, and the vast majority of those who died — 88% — were over 60, data show.
The deaths reported Friday included six Spartanburg County residents; five Greenville County residents; three residents each from Anderson, Richland and Sumter counties; and a single resident each from Charleston, Colleton, Fairfield, Marion, Orangeburg, Pickens and Saluda counties.
How are schools affected?
More than 700 COVID-19 cases in the past week are associated with schools, according to DHEC.
State health officials, who report school-related cases twice weekly, documented 572 cases among students and 178 cases among staff this past week.
The numbers include kindergarten through 12th grade students and staff in both public and private schools, and count only individuals who attend school in person or are on campus on a regular basis.
Included in the count are positive COVID-19 results obtained from a rapid schools testing initiative the governor announced last month that some districts are in the process of implementing, DHEC said.
A total of 1,306 school-related cases have been reported since Sept. 4, according to DHEC.
How is COVID-19 trending in SC?
Daily case rates have dropped significantly in recent weeks, down 49% from the month prior, with 46 people per 100,000 testing positive for the novel coronavirus over the past 30 days, according to DHEC.
Coronavirus deaths, which lag behind cases, reached a record weekly high in late January and are on the decline but remain elevated, according to DHEC. The agency has reported 1,841 virus deaths, or nearly 22% of the state’s cumulative death total, in the last 30 days.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped substantially after reaching record highs last month. The number of coronavirus inpatients reported Friday is about 35% less than the average reported daily over the past month, according to DHEC.
The number of people being tested across the state has declined slightly in the past month. An average of 560 tests per 100,000 individuals have been performed daily over the last 30 days, about 7% less than the month prior, data show.
The state’s 30-day COVID-19 positivity rate, which provides an idea of how widespread infection is in a testing area, is 9%.
Elevated percent positive rates indicate more people are likely infected with COVID-19 in the community who have not yet been tested and that testing may need to be ramped up.
The World Health Organization last year advised governments not to reopen until percent positive rates were at 5% or lower for at least 14 days.
Nearly 12% of all COVID-19 tests administered in South Carolina since last March have come back positive, according to DHEC. The state’s seven-day percent positive rate briefly dipped below 5% in mid-May but has otherwise remained above the WHO’s guidelines for reopening.
How SC compares to other states
Despite its recent drop in COVID-19 cases, South Carolina remained one of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus over the past week, according to a weekly report published by the federal government.
South Carolina ranked near the top of the list in all coronavirus infection-related categories last week, according to the White House COVID-19 team’s state profile report, which provides a weekly snapshot of COVID-19 cases, deaths, test positivity and other factors at the county level for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
From Feb. 13 to Feb. 19, the state ranked second in new COVID-19 cases per capita; first in coronavirus test positivity; sixth in COVID-19 hospital admissions; and 27th in new COVID-19 deaths per capita, according to the report.
All but three of South Carolina’s 46 counties are considered COVID-19 red zones, based on their rates of new cases and test positivity. Richland County is in the orange zone and two counties — Lee and Calhoun — are in the yellow zone, the report found.