Weekly death tolls in SC continue to rise amid a worsening COVID-19 outbreak


The S.C. Department of Heath and Environmental Control on Aug. 31 reported more than 200 people died from COVID-19 last week. 

Lexington County had the highest numbers of deaths Aug. 22-28.

The news comes as many state health officials continue to urge residents to get vaccinated. South Carolina's complete vaccination rate currently sits below 50 percent. 

Williamsburg County recently announced it will begin paying some residents $100 to get the COVID-19 vaccine in what could be a first in South Carolina.

The first 300 county residents who are completely vaccinated from Aug. 25 to Oct. 25 will receive the money, the county government said. They'll need to show a shot record or card from a medical provider on Mondays at the county's Public Service Administration Building. The $100 checks will be distributed on Fridays.

Statewide numbers

New cases reported: 3,631 confirmed, 712 probable 

Total cases in S.C.: 596,688 confirmed, 138,599 probable.

Percent positive: 15.8 percent.

New deaths reported: 29 confirmed, 8 probable. 

Total deaths in S.C.: 9,288 confirmed, 1,310 probable.

Percent of ICU beds filled (with COVID-19 and other patients): 80.79 percent.

S.C. residents vaccinated

In South Carolina, 56.6 percent of people who are eligible for the vaccine have received one shot, and 47.6 percent of eligible residents are considered fully vaccinated.

Hardest-hit areas

Greenville (382), Horry (263) and Lexington (243) counties saw the highest totals of newly confirmed cases.

What about tri-county?

Dorchester County had 192 new cases on Aug. 31, while Charleston had 191 and Berkeley had 188.

Deaths

DHEC releases county-level data regarding COVID-19 deaths and the ages of those who have died from the virus on Tuesdays. According to the data published Aug. 31, at least 221 people in South Carolina died from the virus Aug. 22-28, and their ages ranged from young adult (18-34) to elderly (65 and older). Lexington County recorded 25 COVID deaths that week — the highest number in the state. Health officials have reported that the vast majority of patients who are dying from the coronavirus at this stage of the pandemic are unvaccinated.

Hospitalizations

Of the 2,285 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Aug. 31, 541 were in the ICU and 339 were using ventilators.

Student, teacher and faculty cases

DHEC's school dashboard shows, through Aug. 29, there have been 3,056 probable and confirmed cases among students and employees in the state's public and charter schools during the current school year.

Variants of concern

DHEC sequences a small, random sample of positive COVID-19 cases each week to determine which “variants of concern” (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) are circulating in the state. According to data published by the agency that is up to date through Aug. 25, 2,089 samples have been identified as “variants of concern” over the course of the pandemic. More than 842 of those samples have been identified as the delta variant, which health officials say is now the dominant strain in South Carolina.

What do experts say?

Experts from the Medical University of South Carolina say they are finding mutations of the delta variant, specifically one known as AY.4. Scientists from the university say the strain is becoming prevalent faster than the original delta strain and could soon need its own name. 

“Delta is proving to be a crazy mutator," said Julie Hirschhorn, director of the Molecular Pathology Laboratory, in an article on MUSC's website. "It’s mutating in a step-wise manner, which may provide one of these variants a selective advantage.”

Go to vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov to find a vaccine clinic near you.

Richard Caines contributed to this report. Follow Zharia Jeffries on Twitter @ZhariaJ26.