Daily COVID case rate in Tri-county down to one-third of July peak

August 14, 2020
Graph showing decline in COVID cases
Another week, another decline. Public health expert Michael Sweat is thrilled but also a little worried that people will start to let their guard down.

The latest seven-day average COVID-19 growth rate in the Tri-county area has dropped to just below 1%, a level not seen since May 21. The growth rate measures the change in confirmed cases from day to day. 

The update comes from the MUSC COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project, which tracks the coronavirus’ spread to inform the public and help health care, business and government leaders make decisions.  

“For the Charleston area, things just continue to get better across the board,” said Michael Sweat, Ph.D., leader of the project. 

The number of cases diagnosed in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties was 1,176 over the past week, compared to 1,632 the week before that.

Other categories the project measures are improving as well. “Hospitals are looking great,” Sweat said, meaning they have plenty of space for COVID patients. “Every day you’re seeing declines in the number of cases.”

Testing continues to be an area of concern. In the Tri-county area, it’s taking an average of six to nine days to get results. But Sweat said that should start decreasing soon. “I’m hearing the capacity’s improving — the machines are repaired and they have the pipette tips they need.” 

Now he’s looking ahead to the fall and winter. “We have multiple wild cards — schools, universities, cooler weather — respiratory illness typically goes up in cooler weather because people crowd more inside.”

He hopes the improving numbers don’t give people the wrong idea. “I’m very worried that this will keep coming down and people will feel like it’s gotten so much better they can loosen up on the worrying. It’s very easy for people to let their guard down and start going to bars and having parties together and not wearing masks,” he said.

“This is a unique situation. This is not going away until we get a vaccine, I think. And every case study out there tells you it is remarkably fast at regenerating in the population if you let your guard down.”

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