Charleston-area COVID cases drop to half of July 5 peak

August 07, 2020
Graph from epidemiology intelligence project from august 2020
This graph shows the clear decrease in COVID cases in the Tri-county area - but it also shows a relatively high level of daily infections.

The latest update from the MUSC COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project comes as the number of COVID cases diagnosed each day in the Tri-county area has dropped to about half of its July 5 peak of 418. On August 5, the total was 223 in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties combined.

The project’s leader at the Medical University of South Carolina, Michael Sweat, Ph.D., called the decrease great news. “We should feel good about this, that it’s coming down in the Charleston area,” he said. “It’s clearly a testament to the fact that people are wearing masks and separating and things like that.”

But his team, which measures key COVID-19 indicators, still rates the Charleston area’s COVID-19 infection rate as being in the red on a red, yellow and green scale. “Last week, we had 1,632 cases diagnosed, which is a substantial number.”

The Tri-county total would have to dip well below that, to about 340 cases a week, to shift to yellow status, and drop to about 80 new cases a day to shift to green.

Dr. Michael Sweat 
Dr. Michael Sweat

But things are headed in the right direction. Another one of the project’s key indicators, whether there’s a sustained reduction in new cases, is now green. And the growth rate of COVID infections in the Tri-county area has dropped from 1.8% last week to 1.3%, putting it in yellow status. If it drops below 1%, that indicator will go green, too.

An area of concern involves COVID-19 testing. The project puts that indicator in the red, noting that it’s taking an average of nine days for people to get their test results in the Tri-county area. Delayed results are a nationwide problem because chemicals and equipment needed for testing are in short supply.

And a new trouble spot in the epidemiology project’s latest update involves cluster outbreaks, which it now ranks as being in the red. “There were some nursing home outbreaks reported by the Department of Health and Environmental Control. Some of those were probably occurring before the last week. They don’t provide dates. We just know they were within the last 30 days,” Sweat said.

He said the challenge for everyone will be to continue to do the things that reduce the risk of catching the coronavirus that causes the illness COVID-19. “You can’t go back to the old normal. You need to keep your distance, not have big gatherings, wear masks, keep washing hands.

“The secret is perseverance. You can’t let up. When things get better on the ground the only way to keep it that way is to persevere and continue. And that’s our society’s big challenge right now - to do that."

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