The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control announced on April 19 that it would no longer publish PDF files regarding weekly COVID-19 cases and deaths after county.
Agency officials say the decision is part of DHEC’s and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s endemic approach, relying less on pure case data and focusing more on serious cases leading to hospitalizations and deaths.
“Data that depend on total COVID-19 cases are not as reliable as they once were,” said Derrek Asberry, a spokesman for DHEC. “This is because fewer reportable tests are being taken due to the increase in non-reportable COVID-19 rapid antigen tests at home.”
The latest data from the Medical University of South Carolina’s COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project shows that there were 228 new COVID-19 cases and zero new deaths in the tri-county April 11-17.
Data on weekly cases and deaths per county can be found at the agency county-level dashboard and includes a seven-day moving average, which allows viewers to see how cases unfold on a weekly basis.
And according to Michael Sweat, director of MUSC’s Center for Global Health, there is a declining confidence in the number of cases because so many people use rapid home tests where the results are not reported to DHEC or CDC.
“I think the vast majority of people use these test kits and (the results) are never recorded,” Sweat said. “It’s a huge minority.”
Sweat also said that the rate of change in the number of cases, an important early indicator of COVID-19 transmission, which refers to a weekly increase or decrease in COVID-19 cases, is also not taken into account.
“We have lost our early indicators,” Sweat said. “For people who are immunocompromised, you really want to see those cases, so you know whether you should start wearing a mask or avoid crowds. If you wait until the hospitals get filled up, it’s late in the game.”
DHEC data can be viewed scdhec.gov/covid19.
Follow Zharia Jeffries on Twitter @Zharia_Jeffries.