South Carolina health officials Wednesday reported 583 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths from the virus.
The low number of confirmed cases is partially due to the 9,277 tests performed, fewer than any day this month.
Nearly 10% of those tests returned positive results, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, making it highest single-day positivity rate in nearly two weeks. South Carolina’s 9.6% positivity rate Wednesday is on the cusp between what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers substantial and high transmission.
Since March of last year, the state has reported 446,169 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,626 deaths from the virus.
South Carolina counts an additional 73,827 cases, including 291 Wednesday, as probable positives. They also count another 994 deaths, including 26 Wednesday, 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 519,996 probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8,620 probable and confirmed deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
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 more than twice as many cases as any other county in South Carolina over the past three-and-a-half months.
In the Upstate Wednesday, Greenville again led all counties with 91 COVID-19 cases, followed by Spartanburg County with 40 cases, according to DHEC.
COVID-19 cases in the Midlands remain just below the Upstate’s numbers. Lexington led all Midlands counties Wednesday with 46 cases, followed by Richland with 41 and York with 39.
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 45 confirmed COVID-19 cases were most in the PeeDee Wednesday, while Charleston County’s 33 cases were most in the Lowcountry.
Of the 18 confirmed deaths reported Wednesday, 14 were elderly (65 and older) and four 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 Wednesday included five Spartanburg County residents; four Anderson County residents; and a single resident each from Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Dorchester, Florence, Greenville, Horry, Oconee and Pickens counties.
How is COVID-19 trending in SC?
Daily case rates have dropped significantly in recent weeks, with 38 people per 100,000 testing positive for the novel coronavirus over the past 30 days, according to DHEC.
Coronavirus deaths have been on a steady decline since reaching a record weekly high in late January, according to DHEC. The agency has reported 1,359 virus deaths, or about 16% of the state’s cumulative death total, in the last 30 days.
The number of people being tested across the state has declined markedly in the past month. An average of 513 tests per 100,000 individuals have been performed daily over the last 30 days, data show.
The state’s 30-day COVID-19 positivity rate, which provides an idea of how widespread infection is in a testing area, has been dropping and is now down to 8.2%.
Elevated percent positive rates indicate more people are likely infected with COVID-19 in the community who have not yet been tested and that testing may need to be ramped up.
The World Health Organization last year advised governments not to reopen until percent positive rates were at 5% or lower for at least 14 days.
More than 11% of all COVID-19 tests administered in South Carolina since last March have come back positive, according to DHEC. The state’s seven-day percent positive rate briefly dipped below 5% in mid-May but has otherwise remained above the WHO’s guidelines for reopening.
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.