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SC coronavirus cases underreported as DHEC wrestles with internal systems issue

DHEC logs 1,361 new cases, 29 more deaths

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Coronavirus Outbreak (copy) (copy)

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. File/NIAID-RML via AP

After a record-breaking weekend, South Carolina's public health agency is working for a second day to correct a systems issue that's led to underreported coronavirus cases.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 1,361 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday — the lowest number the Palmetto State has seen since November.

But the number is likely larger, DHEC said, since an internal systems issue is diminishing the numbers. DHEC will update its county-level dashboard with missing cases once the complete numbers are available.

Statewide numbers

New cases reported: 1,361, which is 761 percent higher than the 158 tallied on March 31, the day Gov. Henry McMaster ordered nonessential businesses to close.

Total cases in S.C.: 328,028, plus 31,329 probable cases

New deaths reported: 29

Total deaths in S.C.: 5,358 confirmed, 502 probable

Total tests in S.C.: 4,076,340

Hospitalized patients: 2,453

Percent of positive tests, seven-day average: 30.3 percent. Five percent of tests or fewer returning positive results is a good sign the virus' spread is slowing, researchers say.

Hardest-hit areas

According to data from DHEC, the top counties for new coronavirus cases reported Tuesday were Greenville, 158; Pickens, 142; and Anderson, 83.

What about tri-county?

Charleston and Berkeley counties each had 27 new cases, while Dorchester reported 37.

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Deaths

Six of the 29 new deaths reported Tuesday were patients aged 35 to 64, and the rest were 65 and older.

They lived in Anderson, Bamberg, Beaufort, Calhoun, Chesterfield, Darlington, Florence, Horry, Lexington, Marion, Orangeburg and Richland counties.

Hospitalizations

Of the 2,453 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday, 485 were in intensive care and 270 were on ventilators.

How many cases have been found in long-term care facilities?

There have been 15,135 confirmed coronavirus cases in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities: 9,443 residents and 5,692 staff workers, according to DHEC data. That's a 9 percent increase of cases in two weeks.

So far, 1,678 residents have died from the virus, a mortality rate of 19 percent. Twenty-eight workers also have died. Together, they account for 32 percent of deaths in the state, the data released Tuesday shows.

Of the 684 facilities DHEC monitored, the virus has been found in 460. There are active outbreaks at 214 of them, a 22 percent increase in two weeks.

Some type of visitation — indoor, outdoor or both — is allowed at 321 facilities; 344 do not allow it; and 19 did not report.

What do experts say?

Authorities continue to urge South Carolinians to take precautions, such as wearing masks or other face coverings, social distancing and frequently washing hands.

They also urge anyone who believes they’ve been exposed to the virus or who is developing symptoms to get tested. Those out in the community or not able to socially distance should get tested monthly, DHEC advised.

The Medical University of South Carolina said it plans to offer rapid testing in the Charleston International Airport's daily parking garage from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday.    

Go to scdhec.gov/findatest to find a testing site in your area.

Reach Sara Coello at 843-937-5705 and follow her on Twitter @smlcoello.

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