(TNS) - York and Lancaster counties each reported a new coronavirus-related death Wednesday, South Carolina health officials announced.
The two deaths involved elderly individuals, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control. Based on the agency’s count, there have been 11 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in York County and seven confirmed in Lancaster County.
York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said Wednesday her office policy continues to be issuing a death certificate on confirmed cases only where the person has tested positive for COVID-19 before the death.
“We only issue a death certificate when there was a positive test beforehand,” Gast said.
Gast said her office does not issue certificates of death for probable cases.
DHEC officials announced Wednesday it would begin releasing the number of probable cases and death each day, following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A probable case would be someone who has not received lab test results, but has coronavirus symptoms or a positive antibody test, according to DHEC’s definition. A probable death would be someone who’s death certificate lists COVID-19 as a cause or death or a contributing factor, but has not received a lab test.
With the addition of 10 new deaths related to the virus reported Wednesday, the state’s death toll is now at 617.
Of the 10 people who died, nine were elderly individuals from Beaufort, Berkeley, Colleton, Greenville, Horry, Lancaster, Lexington, and York counties. One was a middle-aged individual from Charleston county.
More COVID-19 cases
Additionally, 19 confirmed coronavirus cases were reported in York County. Lancaster County added 11 cases, for a total of 270 cases, according to the agency. As of June 14, York County has one probable case, according to DHEC.
Last week, York County reported at least 20 new cases daily, and it added 34 new cases on Saturday, which marked the highest single-day number reported to date. And on Tuesday, the county reported 33 cases. York County has had 699 cases confirmed since the pandemic started, according to DHEC.
Chuck Haynes, York County Emergency Management Director, said the 19 cases reported Wednesday is a good sign when compared to highs of 34 and 33 and a stretch of 20-plus cases in recent days.
However, Haynes said testing continues in York County at several sites, which likely will mean that the numbers will stay at the high level.
“We may see some bump in the coming days,” Haynes said. “If you look more for something, which in this case is this virus, the chances are very good that you will find more.”
Haynes reiterated that his office recommends the public practice social distancing, hygiene, and that York County residents wear masks any time they are out in public. Haynes also said limiting public interaction whenever possible remains important to slow the spread of the disease.
DHEC identified 577 new cases of COVID-19 across the state Wednesday, pushing the overall total of infections to 20,551. Chester County reported two new cases Wednesday, for a total of 127 confirmed cases, DHEC said.
Postponed Lancaster reopening
The high number of cases reported in Lancaster County in recent days has pushed officials to postpone reopening more county government buildings and services that had been planned for this week, said Steve Willis, Lancaster County Administrator.
“The numbers are higher than they have been, and we are concerned about the rise,” Willis said. “This can’t just be increased testing. It has to be that people are not social distancing and wearing masks, and the COVID-19 disease is spreading.”
Lancaster County also has decided not to scale back temperature checks of staff and the public at certain government offices that already opened because of the recent spike in cases, said Alison Alexander, deputy county administrator.
The county also will keep up physical barriers put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic at certain offices where the public receives services, Alexander said.
“With the rising number of cases, it did not seem wise to eliminate the temperature checks,” Alexander said.
The county also has decided it will not offer summer day camp for youth this year, Alexander said.
“Even with safety procedures we would have had in place, we did not want to risk it,” Alexander said.
As part of DHEC’s efforts to increase testing across the state, the agency has set up mobile testing sites. DHEC set a goal of testing about 2% of the state’s population in June, a goal they met in May.
According to DHEC’s website, a free testing site will be open Thursday at First Calvary Baptist Church from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The church is at 228 Lucky Lane in Rock Hill.
On Tuesday, 4,409 tests were conducted statewide, with 13.1% having positive results, DHEC reported.
Since March, labs across the state have completed 304,431 tests. But DHEC officials estimate that about 86% of COVID-19 patients in the state have not been tested or identified, which means about 146,793 people in South Carolina have likely had the virus.
The agency calculated that there are up to 4,294 unidentified cases in York County based on projections released Monday. The agency estimated Lancaster County has as many as 1,659 unidentified cases, and Chester County has up to 780 unidentified cases.
Hospitals across the state are at about 71% capacity. Of the 7,411 beds in use across the state on Wednesday, DHEC officials said, 607 are occupied by coronavirus patients or those who are suspected of having COVID-19.
Hospitals in York County are at about 85% capacity, according to DHEC. Lancaster County hospitals are at about 48% capacity. Chester County hospitals are at 100% capacity, and it is the only county reporting at 100% occupancy.
In eight of the last 10 days, the number of coronavirus patients or those suspected of having COVID-19 who were hospitalized exceeded 500. In April and May, the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients did not go over 500.
©2020 The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.)
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