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By the end of last week, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) had reported 137 positive cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths in Williamsburg County. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are being hit the hardest. Carlyle Senior Care in Kingstree is reporting 39 cases to residents, 17 cases to staff, and five resident deaths.

According to its website, DHEC prioritizes the identification of COVID-19 infections in congregate settings like nursing homes, assisted living facilities and extended care facilities because the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 is common in these types of facilities, and the residents who live there are at high risk for developing complications or death from COVID-19 infection.

The agency provides a twice-weekly update on the facilities that have confirmed cases or deaths from COVID-19 infection.  DHEC is continuing its partnership with nursing home facilities across the state to help them implement infection control practices that protect their residents and those who care for them during the pandemic.

DHEC is reporting an 81% recovery rate. Recovery rate data is based on symptom onset information, so the percentages are based on the number of individuals the agency have symptom onset data for, not the total number of cases in the state. Regardless of the number of reported cases within an area, all South Carolinians should take seriously the recommended precautions for protecting against this disease.

DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory receives samples from healthcare providers to be tested for COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved some private labs to also conduct this CDC-approved testing for COVID-19. These labs are required to report cases of the virus to DHEC for residents of South Carolina. For more information contact state-level resources such as McLeod Regional Medical Center at (843) 777-7000 or visit https://www.mcleodhealth.org/ to access the Coronavirus Assessment Tool.

As South Carolina increases testing, there will be more laboratory-confirmed cases. On May 8, DHEC released new graphs showing trends in ​the percent of cases of COVID-19 ​relative to the number of tests performed during the last 28 and 14 days, respectively. The calculation is a result of the number of positive tests reported in a day (for May 4, 93) divided by the total number of tests performed on that same day by both DHEC’s laboratory and private laboratories (for May 4, 1,001), then multiplied by 100 to get the percent positive (9.3% for May 4).

When the percent positive is high, it may indicate that there isn’t enough testing being performed to capture how much disease is in the community and testing may be focused on people who are more severely ill. When the percent positive is low, it may indicate that more widespread testing is being performed and the percent positive may more accurately reflect how much disease is present in the community.