Encouraging COVID-19 trends in Tri-county area

July 31, 2020
This is what public health experts have been waiting to see. The question is, can the Tri-county area sustain it?

This week’s update from the MUSC COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project contains encouraging news in some key categories for the Charleston area.

  • The growth rate is down from 3% to 1.8%.
  • The number of cases is down from 2,600 to 2,000 per week.
  • All three of the large hospitals in the Tri-county area now have a manageable number of COVID-19 patients, an improvement from the previous week.

Michael Sweat, Ph.D., leads the project. “I think people are feeling good about how things have improved,” he said.

He’s especially pleased to see two of the three large hospitals in the Tri-county area are no longer on the brink of needing to use crisis measures. “It’s super good. I think it’s a testament to the community, really.”

Dr. Michael Sweat 
Dr. Michael Sweat

But he’s afraid that if people let down their guard, the situation could quickly turn around. “We still have a lot of cases. It means there’s a lot of virus circulating around and it would be easy to spark up again. From a public health viewpoint, your chance of bumping into somebody who has it is still pretty high right now.”

As Sweat continues to track COVID-19 in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, he’s eyeing other places that have lowered their numbers to see what might happen next.

“Hong Kong, South Korea, Vietnam – they were all heralded as doing the best job in the world, not having outbreaks and controlling things. They were carefully able to open up. But suddenly, and to some degree in Europe, too, as they started to go back to normal, they had big outbreaks,” he said.

“I think the lesson is that as soon as you stop the control measures, the virus is out there enough that it takes off very quickly. This idea that’s been percolating, that if you drove it down to zero you could slowly open up, and hopefully control it, is being challenged at this point. It’s suggesting that we need to constantly - until we have a vaccine - have a lot of limitations.”

He predicts the virus will ebb and flow in the Tri-county area. “Let’s keep our eye on the good news but stay vigilant. Because if we don’t it will come right back. It’s clear that’s what would happen.”

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