CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials at the Medical University of South Carolina say they are concerned about the tri-county’s high COVID-19 growth rates.
President of MUSC, Dr. David Cole, and Director of MUSC’s Center for Global Health, Dr. Mike Sweat, presented the latest data to more than a dozen tri-county leads on Monday morning as part of the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG) meeting.
“We’ve seen really significant increases in the number of cases,” Dr. Sweat said.
He explained that our area had almost no growth in virus cases in late May, but our growth rates have since skyrocketed.
“Right around Memorial Day we just have seen an increase in the number of cases present,” he added.
He said this seems to be a direct correlation between not just the holiday, but businesses opening back up and people getting back into the community. He also said the latest data shows 20% of COVID-19 tests in South Carolina were positive, meaning one in every five people tested has the virus.
He clarified that while there has been more testing, this growth rate is because the rate of infection is truly high due to spread. He also presented data which shows our number of cases in the tri-county area is currently doubling every 8.5 days.
“Now we have these high growth rates back again, but we have a lot of people infected and when you combine that, it’s not a good outcome,” he said.
If that rate continues, our area could have 40,000 cases by the end of July. Right now the tri-county area has documented around 4,000 cases according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Dr. Cole said we are not in an emergency situation right now, as far as hospital capacity. He said as of Monday morning there were about 60 COVID-19 patients at MUSC, but if the growth rate continues as is, it could be bad.
“If we do have an unabated growth rate at the current numbers for five weeks...40,000 will become an emergency,” he added.
However, the doctors said there is some reason for optimism. Because of the growing number of cases, they said it’s likely people know someone who has been infected.
“More people will know someone who had it, or has it, so that should help people change their behavior and greater willingness to take action,” Dr. Sweat added. Both men said they hope more awareness of the virus and its spread will lead to people making better decisions about social distancing and wearing masks.
“Masks are not convenient,” Dr. Cole said. “They’re amazingly divisive across people’s opinions. But it’s one of the few things that doesn’t shut down the community. It allows you as a community to ideally try to minimize the spread and get control of the numbers and if we can just ride this out in enough time there will be a vaccine.”