DHEC: While COVID-19 deaths increasing in S.C., death rate is decreasing

Protecting Yourself from Coronavirus (May 2020)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - South Carolina has seen the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 increase over the last few weeks.

However, state health officials said the death rate from the novel coronavirus is decreasing when compared to the total number of cases.

Dr. Joan Duwve, with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, said during a media briefing Thursday that one of the reasons for this is many of the state’s newest confirmed COVID-19 cases are in younger people under the age of 35 who don’t have as high of a risk of dying from the disease.

Duvwe pointed out that health care providers have also learned a great deal about the disease over time and have become more efficient at treating COVID-19 patients.

As of Thursday, there have been 50,548 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in S.C. since the start of the pandemic and 897 deaths. Calculating those figures shows the mortality rate at an estimated 1.8%.

Approximately 1,433 patients statewide are hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of Thursday, a high for S.C. during the pandemic. Duwve said 172 of those patients are on ventilators.

Officials with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said they are not at the point currently of looking at alternate facilities or surge planning that was discussed back in March. They added that a number of hospitals throughout the state have developed their own internal surge plan since March.

State health officials have ramped up testing across S.C. since the start of May, with thousands turning out for free testing clinics, something that’s been mirrored across the country.

With more testing, there have been reports of delays in getting the results. DHEC officials said they have heard reports of those delays as well, noting there have been a few days where their lab has not been able to meet the 24-to-48-hour turnaround and might be off by a day.

According to DHEC staff, they’ve gotten reports of larger labs seeing turnaround times of seven or more days. That’s why they continue to emphasize the need for social distancing measures and wearing face masks when distancing isn’t possible.

Duwve said Thursday it’s also been difficult to stay on top of contact tracing as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise in S.C.

As it stands, there are currently 333 case investigators, which is up from 10 from a day ago, according to Duwve. She added there 225 contact monitors out of 600 who are trained.

Duwve said DHEC is moving more of those 600 into the “in use” category.

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