The number of positive cases of the coronavirus cases could increase 20-fold by early May, according to projections released Wednesday by South Carolina health officials.
Reporting 82 total new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the Department of Health and Environmental Control also posted a series of charts that shed some light on the progression of the coronavirus in South Carolina. [content-3]
These estimates will likely be updated by DHEC. But since they're new, let's look at the big numbers first, then we'll look at the demographic breakdown.
Earlier this week, DHEC officials said the coronavirus was in an "acceleration" phase, and their projected numbers bear that out for the short term.
Officials are projecting South Carolina could finish this week (3/22-3/28) with 787 total confirmed coronavirus cases — an 85 percent increase over three days from the total number of 424 cases on Wednesday.
By the end of next week (4/4), that number would nearly double again to 1,573 cases, according to projections. After that, DHEC's numbers continue to increase, but the rate of week-over-week increases go down.
By May 2, DHEC's projections show cases increasing by more than 2,000 in a single week, projecting up to 8,053 total confirmed COVID-19 cases.
DHEC's new numbers come a day after a USC biology professor James Morris published his analysis using earlier DHEC data, estimating the number of potential cases of COVID-19 to be much higher. A graph in DHEC's release on Wednesday noted that models crafted "with the click of a mouse" may not take into account "nuances" in data fluctuation and correction.
Reacting to Wednesday's release, Morris told the City Paper, "I think their estimates are low."
WHO IS GETTING SICK?
DHEC has released limited information about what groups of people have COVID-19. The new data only represents the group of positive cases. Given the barriers and variables that can affect who is tested, we do not have a full picture of how the coronavirus is actually affecting individual populations in South Carolina.
[content-2] Of South Carolina's 424 current confirmed cases, 56 percent are over the age of 50, with 37 percent 21-50 years old. The median age of reported cases is 54 years old. COVID-19 is known to be especially harmful to those with underlying health conditions, making older people and those with compromised immune systems more susceptible to the disease.
South Carolina cases are evenly split between men and women, with 51 percent of total cases not requiring hospitalization at the time of illness.
DHEC's numbers also show a slight disparity in the racial breakdown of COVID-19 patients. In the 319 cases that reported the patient's race, 54 percent white and 39 percent were African American. The state's population as a whole is 68.5 percent white and just 27.1 percent African American, according to census figures.