Is SC‘s curve plateauing? It’s too early to tell, but masks help.

Wearing face masks may be helping to flatten the curve in South Carolina
Wearing face masks may be helping to flatten the curve in South Carolina(WIS)
Updated: Aug. 1, 2020 at 5:57 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - For the past couple of weeks, South Carolina has seen new daily COVID-19 cases fluctuate around an average between one and two thousand. However, is this an indication that cases are trending in the right direction in the Palmetto State?

University of South Carolina biostatistician Stella Self has been closely examining the data from DHEC.

"It's too early to say we are going down, I have a little more confidence in saying we are plateauing but that's too early to say for sure," Self said.

She said the case numbers she was seeing from about six weeks ago scared her, so she is optimistic because those sharp increases didn't continue. She thinks one of the reasons there was a shift in the trend is because some municipalities enacted mask ordinances.

“For Richland and Lexington counties in early July various counties and cities in that area passed masking ordinances in quick succession,” she said. “About a week to 10 days after that we started to see the numbers, the COVID-19 case numbers reported by DHEC for Lexington and Richland county, plateau. So they stopped climbing, they haven’t really started to go down, but they stopped the dramatic increase,” Self explained.

Gov. Henry McMaster has refused to enact a statewide mask ordinance, but this week called on local governments to come up with their own rules or guidance to encourage their citizens to wear a mask.

"The way to prepare for the worst is to have local leadership involved in stopping the spread of this virus," he said.

Self said it takes around two weeks to see any changes in a new ordinance reflected in the data.

"When you factor in that on average there are about five days between COVID-19 exposure and the development of symptoms. And then when you think about when you start to feel ill with COVID and testing and getting results back it makes sense that masking is what caused that anecdotally," she said.

Self adds people also act differently when they were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 and or are experiencing symptoms.

For example, if two people are infected on the same day, one may feel sick in two days and may have the resources to get tested right when they show symptoms. That person may get tested at a clinic that has a 48 hour turnaround time for results. However, the other person may not feel symptoms for up to five days, may not be motivated to get tested immediately, and may go to a clinic that is backed up and not know if they are positive or negative for a week.

Therefore, she said it's important to not just focus on the new cases DHEC announces everyday.

“There is a lot of noise in the data. So saying for sure how we’re trending we just kind of have to wait to see,” Self said.

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