Percent positive calculations not main indicator of COVID-19 spread, Grand Strand hospitals say

Updated: Feb. 4, 2021 at 6:20 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WMBF) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has changed the way it calculates percent positivity when it comes to daily COVID-19 case updates.

DHEC said they understood this change would result in a lower percent positive rate, but explained that this does not indicate a drop in community spread.

Still, Grand Strand area hospital officials said, they do not want people in the community to look at the new lower percentage point and believe less community spread is occurring.

“Their raw numbers are there. The number of positive people who have gotten COVID, that doesn’t change no matter how you calculate the percentage. It’s still a pretty severe thing and hospitalizations are still way up,” Chief Operations Officer Gayle Resetar from Tidelands Health said.

On Thursday, the agency reported a 10.1% positivity rate in their latest release, after weeks in the 20% range.

This change comes with the new tests over tests method, DHEC just started using. The agency now divides all positive COVID-19 test results by the total number of COVID-19 tests, whether they’re positive or negative. Then DHEC multiplies it by 100 to convert it into a percentage.

Before, DHEC said they used to use the “people over people” method, and are aware this new change shows a large drop in percentage.

“This allows us to now provide a better comparison with percent positivity calculations from the CDC. The reason for providing positivity rate is to determine the level at which COVID-19 is spreading,” officials with the agency said during a news briefing on Wednesday.

DHEC said the reason they used the people over people method early on in the pandemic was so they could focus on how many new people were getting infected in South Carolina. DHEC said this became harder when testing became more frequent.

And while Tidelands Health and Conway Medical Center said percent positivity is a tool to look at, they said they track hospitalizations for COVID-19 as a better way to get a sense of the spread.

“Knowing what hospitalizations are that’s where the real danger is. So today along the whole Grand Strand we have 145 people hospitalized in all the hospitals that we have here. We had a peak number at around 245 so we’re down a little from that but in September we were down to like 20,” Resetar said.

Conway Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Richardson said he understands why getting all agencies on the same page is helpful, but added that people need to remain vigilant.

“We need to compare apples to apples.” Richardson said. “When we look at percent positives and what not use that as information but don’t let it guide behavior.”

Copyright 2021 WMBF. All rights reserved.