Epidemiologist: ‘The worst is yet to come’ after almost 100 COVID deaths announced this weekend

Epidemiologist: ‘The worst is yet to come’ after almost 100 COVID deaths announced this weekend
(Source: Adam Mintzer)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - During the last weekend of July, DHEC reported about 100 South Carolinians have died from COVID-19.

While DHEC has said deaths are often reported days or weeks after they occur, epidemiologists fear the increased number of deaths will continue.

“I think we can anticipate that the worst is still yet to come,” said chair of the University of South Carolina Epidemiology and Biostatistics department.

Alberg said new infections of coronavirus started to spike after Memorial Day weekend, and the increase of deaths S.C is experiencing is coming in the wake of that surge.

“We can predict pretty reliably the number of deaths based on the number of cases maybe three or four weeks ago. From the time it takes for the virus to be transmitted, for someone to get sick, to be hospitalized, the hospitalization, and then unfortunately for them to die,” he explained.

Although DHEC’s daily announcement of new deaths can fluctuate based on when deaths are reported to the agency, they do also later track deaths by date of death.

By that count, daily deaths started to increase by late June and early July, which is four weeks after Memorial Day. Then, new daily deaths started reaching in the 20s, and by the middle of July as many as 46 people were dying each day from COVID-19

However just because deaths are high, most people who get coronavirus won't die.

In South Carolina, about 1.7 percent of all people infected with COVID-19 passed away, according to recent DHEC data.

While DHEC says the true number may be higher, Alberg says COVID-19's fatality rate is low compared to other epidemics like Ebola.

However, how deadly the virus depends on the person.

"Case fatality is so dependent on age," Alberg said.

According to an analysis by DHEC, of all the people who have died from COVID-19 only 0.5% of them are ages 21-30.

That number reaches about 20% if someone is aged 61-70, and nearly 30% for people in their 70s.

In fact, Alberg says this year COVID is projected to be one of the largest causes of death in our state if you compare the deaths from COVID-19 this year to the top deaths from last year.

"If we can continue on our current trajectory, after a year it would be the third leading cause of death. This is a serious problem," Alberg said.

According to a model created by the University of Washington and cited by DHEC, 3,186 people in S.C. are projected to die from COVID-19 by November 1st.

In 2019, according to data from DHEC compiled by the Post and Courier, the top causes of death were heart disease and cancer with more than 10,000 people dying from them last year.

However, if similar trends play out this year, COVID-19 will rank just behind cancer and above accidents, lower respiratory diseases, strokes, Alzheimer’s, and suicide

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