FLORENCE, S.C. (WPDE) — Originally written 4/27/20. Updated 4/29/20.
This week brings multiple possible turning points for South Carolina.
For one, April will be changing over into May. Secondly, it could be a week where the state begins to open up its economy even more, even as the governor extended the state of emergency for another 15 days.
The big question, however, is whether or not COVID-19 cases begin to rise again as people return to work.
For now, most of the state has managed to successfully flatten the curve among known cases. One month ago, the number of newly reported infections rose with each day's update.
As of this writing, it's hovering around 150, with occasional swings into the double digits or the mid-200s.
South Carolina's new reported cases (blue) along with the 8-day moving average (red). Can't see the chart on mobile? Tap here.
This change was in part driven by slow-downs in the early hotspots: Kershaw, Charleston, Beaufort and York Counties, which all reported some of the highest case counts in late March but have disappeared among the other counties since.
Many of the mid-tier counties, which had seen case counts steadily ticking up, also slowed, even as testing increased. Today, roughly 10% of COVID-19 tests come back positive, DHEC officials say, which is in line with what other states have reported.
This week, the state finds itself at a third crossroad: even with all the success stories, there are counties that are struggling to flatten their curves or seeing rates of cases increase as of Wednesday.
Comparing two different factors led to a few counties standing out, with others on the fence.
Counties that have not managed to flatten their curves
This category includes some of the big-name counties on the list: Richland and Greenville, along with Clarendon, Dillon, Laurens, and Marlboro Counties. For most of these counties, there's not much of a "curve" to speak of. The number of new cases has risen in more or less a straight line.
Since the counties vary in size, this has come with different effects. There is more of an impact to Dillon County, for example, which has seen its rate of cases jump by 7/10,000 people in the past week (enough for it to have doubled), than Greenville, where the leap has only been by three.
The most worrisome county, though, is Clarendon County, which is by far the most impacted in the state at 59 cases per 10,000 people. Its rate of cases has also risen the fastest, jumping by 18 in the past week.
Williamsburg and Saluda Counties were the only others where the rate of cases rose by more than 10. Both of those counties have more than doubled their rates of infection in the process.
That brings us to the second category of counties on this list: those where the curves are continuing, or in some cases, starting, to increase.
Counties on this list include Abbeville, Barnwell, Darlington, Edgefield, Fairfield, Florence, Lexington, Marion, Orangeburg, Saluda, and Williamsburg Counties.
Most of these counties are small, with the notable exceptions of Florence and Lexington Counties. With a population of 138,000 people, the Florence County now has the fifth-highest total case reports in the state. Lexington's cases recently began to tick up again after flattening for some time.
Darlington, Fairfield and Abbeville counties barely made this list. Their new case reports have slowed in the past few days. However, those slowdowns have never lasted long in the past.
Robeson and Columbus Counties along the North Carolina border belt would also fit into this category. Their case rates can be viewed on our interactive map, which also shows South Carolina data at the zip code level.
It's important to note that DHEC estimates the number of actual infections in the state is far higher than cases that have been reported, and the numbers are constantly changing. This data also doesn't reflect people who have recovered from the virus, since that is only regularly estimated by DHEC at the state level.
However, information like this can be useful as local leaders determine how far they want to go in re-opening their areas as the governor hands back more and more control to individual counties, cities and towns.
Some may decide the danger has passed, while others may examine the statistics and find they're still waiting for their turning point.
Editor's note: The charts and maps in this story are updated automatically every day and may not reflect the writing when viewed at a later date.