MUSC Hartsville testing

The Medical University of South Carolina tested 433 people at the TB Thomas Sports Center next to Byerly Park in Hartsville in May. Photo by Christian Boschult

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control on Monday announced 1,002 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths as the viral disease continues to spike throughout the state. 

Horry County was home to 125 of those new cases, but none of the deaths. 

It brings Horry County’s cumulative case total to 2,054 with 39 deaths, and South Carolina’s total to 25,666 with 659 deaths. 

DHEC had previously set a goal of testing 110,000 people, or about 2 percent of the state’s population, per month. 

The agency on Monday said it had surpassed that goal in May and has stepped up its efforts. DHEC now wants to test 140,000 people per month in June, July and August, and increase that to 165,000 people per month for the rest of 2020. To find a free testing clinic near you, click here

The increase in testing coincides with DHEC guidelines. When the percent of tests coming back positive is below 10 percent, the state says testing capacity is adequate, but if the percent-positive rate is 10 percent or more, DHEC says more widespread testing is recommended. 

For most of the past two weeks, the percent-positive rate has climbed above 10 percent, and 16.1 percent of tests on Saturday came back positive. Of the 7,971 samples tested on Sunday, 12.6 percent of them came back positive. 

While more widespread testing has caught more cases of the virus, testing alone isn’t the cause of the increase, as the percentage of tests coming back positive has been climbing over the past two weeks, reflecting a wider community spread. 

While the percentage of tests coming back positive has increased, the average age of COVID-19 patients has been trending younger. 

The change is reflected in state and localized testing data, and public health experts and DHEC have attributed the change to lax adherence to social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines as restrictions on risky activities have been lifted. 

For example, in Horry County, the average age of COVID-19 patients was just over 51-years-old, according to DHEC. In June, the average age dropped to under 42-years-old.

Statewide, the age group with the highest percentage of cases is the 21-30-year-old demographic, which represents 18 percent of all cases. 

As of Monday morning, the state’s hospital bed utilization rate was just under 68 percent. Of the 7,119 inpatient beds in use, 731 are hold patients who have either tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19.

To prevent the spread of the disease by COVID-19-positve residents who are asymptomatic or whose symptoms have not n up yet, DHEC recommends wearing a mask in public to protect those around you, practicing social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others, avoiding large group gatherings, regularly washing your hands and staying home if you feel sick. 

DHEC is predicting the state to have 31,858 cumulative cases by July 4 th. 

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