SC COVID-related deaths continue to tick up even as cases and hospitalizations decline
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials told South Carolinians to isolate, slow the spread, and flatten the curve.
But at the time, we weren’t sure how many curves we would need to flatten over nearly two years.
Public health professionals say now that a vaccine is readily available, the most recent spike in cases can be the last of the pandemic if certain mitigation measures become more common.
“I think the way this can be the last wave is if we convince people to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Jonathan Knoche, a medical consultant with DHEC.
According to DHEC data from the past 30 days, new cases, the percent positive rate, and hospitalizations are all trending in the right direction.
“It’s a very common finding to see the number of cases to go up and as the population gets more immune, whether it is from vaccination or natural infection, there are less people who are susceptible to that infection so those numbers start to go down,” Knoche explained.
He also added that the protection from the vaccine is longer lasting than from getting the virus.
However, while cases are going down, deaths from the coronavirus in South Carolina are trending up.
“It takes time for people to go to the hospital, for the disease to be serious enough for people to pass away. Then, that needs to be signed off by the physician who says the cause of death is COVID-19 and then it needs to be reported to DHEC,” Knoche said.
The majority of COVID-related deaths in South Carolina are among people who are not fully vaccinated against the virus
According to a DHEC analysis of deaths from August to September, 78 percent of those who passed away from the coronavirus were not considered fully vaccinated.
Of the 22 percent of patients who died from COVID and were fully immunized, Knoche said the majority had weakened immune systems.
“It’s good for us to recognize that those who passed away who have been fully vaccinated, they are on average older,” Knoche said. “And when we asked about underlying conditions, over 96 percent of people who were fully vaccinated and died of COVID had some underlying, preexisting, comorbid condition that increases their chance of passing away.”
While the average age of people who died from COVID is in the 70s, the average age of someone who contracts the virus is around 39.
“During the school year, we saw a much bigger jump in the pediatric population. But when it comes to death it’s still largely the older population. That’s why we are seeing this recommendation for people who live in long-term care facilities, who are older, to get this vaccine because they are still at risk of these antibodies waning so it’s recommended they get a booster right now,” Knoche suggested.
But a third shot is three more than many South Carolinians have already received.
60 percent of South Carolinians 12 years old or older have gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Knoche said to make sure another spike isn’t around the corner that number needs to increase.
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