Record-setting death toll in SC rises with over 500 new COVID-19 fatalities last week

Noah Feit, Lou Bezjak
·6 min read

More than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 and 35 new deaths were confirmed Sunday in South Carolina by the Department of Health and Environmental Control, making this the deadliest week for the coronavirus in the Palmetto State.

The confirmed death toll rose to 522 in the past seven days, according to DHEC. Overall, 6,849 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed in South Carolina since testing began in March 2020, health officials said.

Coronavirus deaths reached a weekly record high of 624 confirmed and probable deaths (102) this week, according to DHEC. The previous weekly record high of 523 confirmed and probable deaths was reported last week, and the top three deadliest weeks in South Carolina have all been recorded in 2021, data shows.

On Monday, 210 deaths were reported by DHEC, the second-most deaths reported on a single day in South Carolina, behind the record 226 deaths confirmed on Jan. 28.

With 2,228 more positive tests of COVID-19 confirmed Sunday, South Carolina’s overall total increased to 412,996, according to DHEC.

Sunday’s data is based on 35,718 tests, and the percent of tests coming back positive increased to 8.8%, according to DHEC. Sunday’s ratio is significantly lower then the Jan. 7 percent positive of 34.2% which is the record for highest in a single day, but that is partially because of a change DHEC made in the way the percent positive is calculated.

The most new cases in a single day was the 6,824 positive tests from Jan. 8. No other single-day report has surpassed 5,000 new positive tests.

Since Dec. 27, there have been 10 days with more than 4,000 new cases of coronavirus confirmed in a single day, the data shows. Prior to the surge in December and January, the previous single-day record was 2,343 cases confirmed on July 18.

Sunday marked the 83rd consecutive day that more than 1,000 positive tests were confirmed in South Carolina, dating back to Nov. 16 when DHEC reported 981 new cases. Health officials reported more than 3,000 daily cases 27 times, and 59 of the past 67 days have seen more than 2,000 positive tests confirmed, the data shows.

Vaccine distribution

Health officials said Sunday that South Carolina had received 779,200 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine and that 503,913 of those doses had been administered, according to DHEC.

The majority of the doses received, or 425,150, are Pfizer-BioNTech doses that have gone to frontline health care workers and community first responders. Of the vaccinations administered, 297,605 have been first doses, while 80,291 more are second doses, according to DHEC.

The other 151,100 are Moderna doses that, until recently, had been reserved for long-term care facility residents and staff. To date, 71,096 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, data shows.

Another 405,361 people have made appointments for vaccinations.

Health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, and hospital inpatients over 65 are currently eligible to receive the vaccine. As of Jan. 13, all South Carolinians age 70 and older are also able to schedule vaccination appointments. Starting Monday, all people age 65-69, regardless of health status, will be eligible to book vaccination appointments and receive doses.

Anyone eligible to receive a vaccine who would like to get one can use DHEC’s locator tool to find a provider with availability near you at www.scdhec.gov/vaxlocator. For those without internet access, DHEC recently launched a phone line — 866-365-8110 — where operators are available every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to help people searching for information about vaccine providers.

State health officials advise South Carolinians to continue taking measures to mitigate spread of COVID-19 as the vaccination rollout progresses in the months ahead.

DHEC urges anyone who is symptomatic or who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 to get tested themselves and recommends routine monthly testing for anyone who is out and about in the community, even if they are asymptomatic.

To find a testing location near you, visit DHEC’s website at scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-testing-locations.

Overall, 5,246,673 tests have been conducted in South Carolina.

Which counties were affected?

Even as COVID-19 cases decline in all regions of the state, the Upstate continues to outpace all other South Carolina regions in its daily number of coronavirus cases.

Greenville County, the state’s most populous county, reported 296 new cases Sunday, and nearby Spartanburg County had 203 more with an additional 87 in neighboring Anderson County, according to DHEC.

COVID-19 cases in the Midlands are also elevated, and Richland County reported 145 new cases, fourth most in South Carolina, and Lexington County reported 135 more positive tests.

COVID-19 has taken the greatest toll on South Carolina’s 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 — 87% — were over 60, the data shows.

How are hospitals being impacted?

The number of people hospitalized statewide for COVID-19 Sunday was 1,526, the sixth day in a row the total decreased.

It was the 10th consecutive day of less than 2,000 people with COVID-19 were being cared for in a South Carolina hospital, following 30 days in a row in which 2,000-plus coronavirus patients were hospitalized, according to health officials.

Prior to the recent winter surge, hospitalizations for COVID-19 previously peaked at 1,723 on July 23, according to DHEC.

Coronavirus patients made up 17% of all reported inpatients in South Carolina on Sunday, data shows.

Nearly 23.5% of COVID-19 patients, or 359 people, are in intensive care units, and nearly 14.6%, or 224 patients, are on ventilators.

Of the 13,502 hospital beds available in South Carolina, 8,910 inpatient beds are currently occupied, health officials said. There are currently 1,355 of 1,756 ICU beds occupied, or 77%, according to DHEC.

In Richland County, 825 hospital beds are occupied (75%), while 397 of 535 hospital beds in Lexington County (74%) are occupied, according to DHEC.

Are all case accounted for?

Across the country, health experts said official case counts have likely under-counted the number of cases to large degrees. At one point, South Carolina officials estimated that 86% of those infected never got tested or diagnosed, but they no longer provide those estimates.

DHEC has also been recording probable cases and probable deaths. A probable case is someone who has not received a lab test result but has virus symptoms or a positive antibody test. A probable death is someone who has not gotten a lab test but whose death certificate lists COVID-19 as a cause of death or a contributing factor.

On Sunday, DHEC reported 269 new probable COVID-19 cases in the state, and eight new probable deaths. That puts the total number of probable cases at 53,377 and total probable deaths at 802.