Thursday, May 28, 2020

Less social distancing means more COVID-19 in Charleston, but cases are still trending down locally

MUSC warns social distancing should be maintained

Posted by Heath Ellison on Thu, May 28, 2020 at 3:23 PM

click to enlarge MUSC prepared for a surge of coronavirus patients in late April - SAM SPENCE
  • Sam Spence
  • MUSC prepared for a surge of coronavirus patients in late April
Increased testing availability is driving some COVID-19 increases in the Charleston area, but so is relaxed social distancing, one Charleston doctor says.

The Charleston metropolitan area saw an increase in the trajectory of new COVID-19 cases two weeks ago, but a leveling off this week, according the Medical University of South Carolina. The area is showing largely positive signs, according to MUSC's COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project, but some of the new cases could be because people are once again coming into close contact.

"Mobility data suggests that we are social distancing significantly less since the stay-at-home order was lifted," said Elizabeth Mack, a doctor and professor at MUSC. She believes that the recent data likely indicates that the virus is spreading more, which has caused more cases over the past two weeks.

click to enlarge Health officials say COVID-19 cases could start trending up because of testing and relaxed social distancing - MUSC COVID-19 EPIDEMIOLOGY INTELLIGENCE PROJECT
  • MUSC COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project
  • Health officials say COVID-19 cases could start trending up because of testing and relaxed social distancing
Gov. Henry McMaster lifted the statewide stay-home order on May 4, and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) began ramping up testing statewide around that time.

Daily travel around the Charleston area has returned to more than 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels, MUSC says, analyzing aggregated, anonymized cell phone data.

"If social distancing is not maintained this could lead to increases in COVID-19 cases in the weeks ahead. It will take several weeks for new infections to be detected," MUSC's website said.
click to enlarge MUSC COVID-19 EPIDEMIOLOGY INTELLIGENCE PROJECT
  • MUSC COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project
DHEC says it wants to test 110,000 residents per month through June, about 2 percent of the state's population. The agency says it reached that goal for May earlier this week, and has tested more than 181,000 people since March 5.

As of Wednesday, 10,623 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed statewide, according to DHEC. In Charleston County, 576 cases have led to 12 deaths.

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