Local COVID death numbers spike as new variant detected in SC

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     COVID-19 deaths have been under reported across South Carolina for several weeks, the result of “system glitches” in a new reporting system, the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control reported Thursday.

     Those glitches have been fixed, revealing 254 confirmed and probable deaths not previously reported, including numerous in Horry County.

     Meanwhile, a North Carolina database indicated four newly confirmed COVID-19 associated deaths for Columbus County Thursday, and Palmetto State health leaders revealed that a recently identified South African variant of the coronavirus has been confirmed in two locations in South Carolina, including one in the Pee Dee region.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • Database correction reveals 19 new COVID deaths in Horry
  • Four new Columbus coronavirus fatalities, NCDHS reports
  • South African variant detected in the Pee Dee

Database correction reveals 19 new COVID deaths in Horry

     A startling 19 newly confirmed COVID-19 associated deaths reported for Horry County on Thursday was impacted, apparently heavily, by corrections to a state database that tracks deaths of all kinds across the state, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control reported.

     Enhancements to that system were announced last month, and after the system went online early this month health leaders began to realize there were issues.

     Contacted immediately, the vendor responsible for the system began work on correcting those “system glitches,” resulting in Thursday’s update that DHEC said brought reporting up to date.

     Those newly confirmed deaths all involved elderly Horry residents and included three on Jan. 17; two each on Jan. 10, 13, 16, 18, and 20; one each on Jan. 8, 11, 14, 15, 19, and 24.

     an additional three “probable” COVID deaths took place on Sept. 1, 2020 and two on Jan. 25.

     Another 144 Horry residents have tested positive for COVID-19, Thursday’s DHEC data showed, including 5 in the Loris Zip Code, 3 in Green Sea. That brings those pandemic totals to 1,486 for Loris, 195 for Green Sea, and 23,309 for Horry County.

     South Carolina has recorded 387,603 COVID cases during the pandemic, 6,235 deaths, those numbers up by 6,235 and 226 respectively since Wednesday, that case total high due to the database correction..

     Statewide 2,086 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Thursday, that number down by 54 since Wednesday.

Four new Columbus coronavirus fatalities, NCDHS reports

     For more Columbus County residents have been claimed by COVID-19 associated illness, another 39 confirmed as infected by the coronavirus in a day, NC Department of Health and Human Services data showed Thursday.

     Those deaths involved residents of the Tabor City, Chadbourn and Nakina Zip Codes, and two from the Whiteville area, the DHHS data showed.

     That brings the pandemic total of COVID deaths involving Columbus residents to 111, with 4,977 residents infected by the virus, that data showed.

     Zip Code data showed five of the most recently confirmed cases from the Tabor City area, thirteen from Whiteville, three from Chadbourn, and one each from Clarendon, Fair Bluff and Cerro Gordo.

     Schools: COVID-19 infections reported by the Columbus County Schools Thursday included two staff members at Williams Township School, two students and one staff member at West Columbus High.

     North Carolina reported 6,490 new COVID infections Thursday and 131 associated deaths, bringing those pandemic totals to 739,500 and 9,046 respectively.

     Statewide 3,238 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Thursday, that number down by 67 from Wednesday.

South African variant detected in the Pee Dee

     A new and potentially more dangerous COVID-19 variant that first emerged in South Africa has been identified in two cases in South Carolina, one in the Pee Dee region, the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Thursday.

     They marked the first confirmed cases of the B.1.351 variant in the United States, DHEC leaders said.

     Those cases were confirmed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after testing by LabCorp.

     “At this point in time, there is no known travel history and no connection between these two cases,” a DHEC news release said. “Both are adults; one from the Lowcountry and one from the Pee Dee region. To protect their privacy, no further information will be released.”

     Experts agree that existing vaccines work to protect us from this variant, even if we don’t know precisely how effective they are. At this time, there’s no evidence to suggest that the B.1.351 variant causes more severe illness.

     “The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Interim Public Health Director. “While more COVID-19 vaccines are on the way, supplies are still limited. Every one of us must recommit to the fight by recognizing that we are all on the front lines now. We are all in this together.”

     The B.1.351 variant has been identified in more than 30 countries but these are the first cases of this variant identified in the United States. Other states have had cases of another, called B.1.1.7, originally identified in United Kingdom. Both variants originally detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa spread easier and quicker than the majority of SARS-CoV-2 variants.

     The South Africa and United Kingdom variants emerged independently from each other and have different characteristics. Most variants do not change how the virus behaves and many disappear.

     “We know that viruses mutate to live and live to mutate,” Dr. Traxler said. “That’s why it’s critical that we all continue to do our part by taking small actions that make a big difference. These include wearing our masks, staying at least six feet apart from others, avoiding large crowds, washing our hands, getting tested often, and when we can, getting vaccinated. These are the best tools for preventing the spread of the virus, no matter the strain.”

Updates

     Look for continuing coverage on local impacts from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak here and in the Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.