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State health officials Tuesday reported 718 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths from the virus.
Just under 7% of the 15,075 COVID-19 tests reported Tuesday returned positive results, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
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 significantly since mid-January, dropped again Tuesday to 977, their lowest point since late November.
Since March of last year, the state has reported 437,806 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,436 deaths from the virus.
South Carolina counts an additional 69,106 cases, including 156 Tuesday, as probable positives. They also count another 921 deaths, including six Tuesday, 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 506,912 probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8,357 probable and confirmed deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
As of Tuesday, 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 Tuesday that 384,870 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 175,118 first doses of the Moderna vaccine had been administered so far. Another 157,362 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 75,345 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 793,000 first and second vaccine doses that have been administered, South Carolinians have scheduled another 494,000 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 Tuesday to 977, more than 60% lower than their peak of 2,466 in mid-January. Coronavirus patients account for 11.3% of all hospital inpatients.
Of those hospitalized with COVID-19, 232 are in intensive care units, and 126 are on ventilators, according to DHEC.
Total hospital bed occupancy, which has hovered around 80% for months, was at 77% Tuesday, while ICU bed occupancy was 73%, data show.
In Richland County, 72% of hospital beds were occupied Tuesday, and in Lexington County, 82% 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.
The Upstate’s seven-day average of new cases is about 550, the lowest it’s been since mid-November, according to DHEC.
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 month.
In the Upstate Tuesday, Greenville again led all counties with 83 COVID-19 cases, followed by Spartanburg County with 53 cases, according to DHEC.
COVID-19 cases in the Midlands are slightly below the Upstate’s numbers, with a seven-day average of 475 new cases, according to DHEC. Lexington led all Midlands counties Tuesday with 51 cases, followed by Richland with 46 and Lexington with 45.
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 47 confirmed COVID-19 cases were most in the PeeDee Tuesday, while Charleston County’s 56 cases were most in the Lowcountry.
Of the 21 confirmed deaths reported Tuesday, all were elderly individuals (65 and older), 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 Tuesday included four Greenville County residents; three Spartanburg County residents; two residents each from Horry, Kershaw and York counties; and a single resident each from Aiken, Clarendon, Edgefield, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Richland and Williamsburg counties.
How are schools and long-term care facilities affected?
More than 800 COVID-19 cases in the past week are associated with schools.
State health officials, who report school-related cases twice weekly, documented 634 cases among students and 186 cases among staff between Feb. 16 and Feb. 23.
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.
Results from a rapid schools testing initiative that some districts have implemented are included in the counts.
A total of 12,946 school-related COVID-19 cases have been reported since Sept. 4, DHEC said.
Another 379 COVID-19 cases and 16 coronavirus deaths in the last week are associated with long-term care facilities, data show.
Facility residents account for 241 of the cases and all of the deaths, with the remaining 138 cases affecting staff members.
As of Tuesday, 160 long-term care facilities in the state, or about 32%, were reporting an active COVID-19 outbreak, which DHEC defines as one or more coronavirus cases among residents of staff in the last 14 days.
In South Carolina, long-term care facility residents account for just over 4% of the state’s roughly 438,000 COVID-19 cases, but about 25% of its virus deaths, data show.
Since March, South Carolina has reported 18,699 cases and 1,873 deaths associated with long-term care facilities. Residents have accounted for nearly two-thirds of the cumulative cases and all but 29 of the deaths, according to DHEC.