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South Carolina health officials Thursday reported 819 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 38 deaths from the virus, marking the fourth straight day with fewer than 1,000 new cases.
More than 5% of the 21,020 tests reported Thursday returned positive results, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, just above the positivity threshold the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers low transmission.
Since March of last year, the state has reported 447,085 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,660 deaths from the virus.
South Carolina counts an additional 74,478 cases, including 374 Thursday, as probable positives. They also count another 1,000 deaths, including seven Thursday, 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 521,563 probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8,660 probable and confirmed deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
As of Thursday, South Carolina had received 704,120 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and 588,400 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The agency reported Thursday that 445,524 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 231,830 first doses of the Moderna vaccine had been administered so far. Another 227,961 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 89,994 second doses of the Moderna vaccine also have been administered.
Administrations of the Moderna vaccine currently lag behind Pfizer administrations because until recently Moderna shots had 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. Starting Monday, anyone 55 and older, people 16 to 64 with certain pre-existing conditions and frontline workers with increased occupational exposure, like teachers and law enforcement will be eligible to be inoculated.
In addition to the 995,000 first and second vaccine doses that have been administered, South Carolinians have scheduled another 531,000 vaccination appointments, DHEC said.
The state also received its first shipment of roughly 41,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses this week, although DHEC has not yet reported that any have been administered. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also known as the Janssen vaccine, received emergency use authorization last weekend. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that require a two-dose regimen, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only a single dose.
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 recently 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.
Which counties were affected?
COVID-19 cases have fallen significantly in all regions over the past month, but remain highest in the Upstate by a small margin.
Greenville County, the state’s most populous county, has reported nearly twice as many cases as any other county in South Carolina over the past three-and-a-half months.
In the Upstate Thursday, Greenville again led all counties with 130 COVID-19 cases, followed by Spartanburg County with 63 cases, according to DHEC.
COVID-19 cases in the Midlands remain just below the Upstate’s numbers. Richland led all Midlands counties Thursday with 74 cases, followed by Aiken with 46 and Lexington with 41.
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 36 confirmed COVID-19 cases were the highest in the PeeDee Thursday, while Charleston County’s 55 cases led in the Lowcountry.
Of the 38 confirmed deaths reported Thursday, 31 were elderly (65 and older) and seven 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 75, and the vast majority of those who died — 88% — were over 60, data show.
The deaths reported Thursday included nine Spartanburg County residents; seven Greenville County residents; four residents each from Anderson and Beaufort counties; three Pickens County residents; two residents each from Florence and Lexington counties; and a single resident each from Barnwell, Charleston, Cherokee, Darlington, Fairfield, Marion and Williamsburg counties.
How SC compares to other states
South Carolina continues to be one of the states hardest hit by COVID-19, but has made significant progress in comparison to other states over the past week, according to a weekly report published by the federal government.
South Carolina, which for the past month had ranked near the top of the list in all coronavirus infection-related categories, is now in the top 10 only for its new cases per capita, 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. 20-26, the state ranked fifth in new COVID-19 cases per capita; 11th in coronavirus test positivity; 15th in COVID-19 hospital admissions; and 37th in new COVID-19 deaths per capita, according to the report.
Only sixteen of the state’s 46 counties are still considered COVID-19 red zones, based on their rates of new cases and test positivity, the report found. Last week, 42 of the state’s counties were in the red.