The number of COVID-19 cases is up sharply in South Carolina, and specifically in Charleston County over the past few weeks, and the situation may not improve any time soon. The Palmetto State announced a new record high for cases in a single day on Tuesday, with 1,741 more people infected. As of Wednesday, 37,809 have been infected with COVID-19 in S.C. and 759 have died from the disease.
"When the lockdown got lifted, it just right away started doubling quickly," said Dr. Michael Sweat, the Medical University of South Carolina's director for the center of global health. "We've got a pretty high growth rate. It's about 8 percent a day and we're getting some big numbers. It's got us all very concerned."
[content-2] The high growth rate, Sweat said, mixed with the high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases has created concern that the current spike will continue in the next few weeks in Charleston County.
"My best guess is we're going to probably continue to see relatively high growth in these numbers at least for a couple of weeks," he said.
[image-3] Charleston County has seen 4,288 cases of novel coronavirus so far and has a relatively high rate of infections, 1,042.28 per 100,000 people. Local leaders have taken some steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including a face mask ordinance which went into effect today.
Sweat believes the mask ordinances will help lower the infection rate. "I think this is going to raise their awareness," he said. "I think the fact that it is a policy empowers businesses to uphold that. It's been very awkward for businesses because they were kind of damned if they did and damned if they didn't enforce that."
Folly Beach, Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Kiawah Island, Isle of Palms and Summerville have each passed some kind of face mask ordinance, requiring residents to wear a mask when visiting some businesses. Dorchester County has passed a local ordinance as well. Charleston County is requiring masks in county buildings, but not elsewhere. [content-1] The data, according to Sweat, also indicates that younger people are part of the reason the current spike is occurring. "It's sort of good and bad," he said. "The people who are less likely to die from this or get seriously ill are the ones getting infected right now, but a bad part of that is younger people tend to have milder symptoms. Because of that, many people misinterpret it and don't realize … they have an infection and they don't seek testing."
[embed-1] In the tri-county area, there’s been an increase in the trajectory of new cases over the last two weeks, according to MUSC. The current daily growth rate of cases for the region has floated between 8 and 9 percent, meaning COVID-19 infections could increase dramatically in the next month if the number is not lowered.
"You can tolerate that kind of high growth rate when there aren't so many cases, but as we're now getting into larger numbers of cases, it can really explode real quick," Sweat said.
With the July 4th weekend coming up, Sweat recommends people avoid large crowds, have any get-togethers outdoors, wear a mask and keep a distance.