Report explores the impact of the coronavirus on South Carolina since March 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Jan. 27, 2021) — The South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) released a COVID-19 data brief demonstrating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on South Carolina between March and December 2020. The brief summarizes data on testing, case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths in South Carolina. View the brief here and additional COVID-19 updates and resources at

Numbers have continued to surge this month, surpassing those detailed within the data brief. For example, throughout December, South Carolina experienced an average positivity rate of 23.1%. From Jan. 1-24, 2021, the average positivity rate continued to increase to 27.3%.

“COVID-19 continues to be an extraordinary public health and policy challenge for our state and country,” says Maya Pack, IMPH executive director. “At IMPH, we remain committed to providing analysis and updates on the pandemic and what it means for our state and communities.”

Of the total 6,578 South Carolinians who have died from COVID-19, 1,070 (16.3%) of those deaths occurred between Jan. 3-24, 2021. According to data provided by the New York Times, in the week leading up to Jan. 20, South Carolina reported the highest average number of new cases per 100,000 across the country.

“More than 277,000 doses of vaccine have been administered in South Carolina and more than 313,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments are currently scheduled,” says Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina State Epidemiologist. "While we are happy, relieved and hopeful that COVID-19 vaccine is here, supplies are currently limited in South Carolina and across the country. Our overarching goal is to save lives, and this important brief informs us of how the initial limited vaccine supply can be used for populations indicated to be at highest risk of complications and death due to COVID-19. Until enough vaccine is available for all of us, we must remain vigilant in following the public health actions that mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and help save lives. Wearing a mask, physically distancing from others and routine testing are the small steps that make a big difference.”

The Impact of COVID-19 Throughout South Carolina in 2020

  • Testing:
    • South Carolina reported a 29.9% COVID-19 positivity rate on Dec. 31, 2020 — the highest percentage of the year.
      • UPDATE: As of Jan. 24, 2021, South Carolina has conducted 4,730,018 tests and is reporting a 21.7% positive rate, which is greater than four times higher than the recommended level for easing restrictions.
  • Cases:
    • Between March 4, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, 283,424 South Carolinians were diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
      • UPDATE: As of Jan. 24, 2021, 381,812 South Carolinians have been diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
    • Pickens, Dillon and Florence counties had the highest prevalence of COVID-19 cases overall during 2020.
    • The COVID Tracking Project reports that 58% of infections in South Carolina were among white people, 28% were among Black people and 10% were among Hispanic people. The difference in infection rates among Hispanic populations illustrates the most significant disparity by race/ethnicity.
  • Hospitalizations:
    • Over the past year, the number of South Carolina hospitals reporting a critical staffing shortage has ranged from 0 to a high of 42 out of 60 general hospitals in the state.
    • On Dec. 31, 2020, a total of 81.8% of inpatient beds in South Carolina were occupied.
  • Deaths:
    • 5,484 South Carolinians died from COVID-19 between March 4, 2020, and Jan. 2, 2021.
      • UPDATE: Of the total 6,578 South Carolinians who have died from COVID-19, 841 (16.3%) of those deaths occurred between Jan. 3-24, 2021.
    • Black people make up 27% of the population in South Carolina, but made up 35% of deaths in 2020.
    • Greenville, Spartanburg and Richland counties had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths within the state.
  • Morbidity and Mortality in Selected Populations:
    • Health care workers: In South Carolina, there have been a total of 43 health care worker deaths attributable to COVID-19 since March 2020.
    • Nursing home and assisted living facilities: In South Carolina, 9,044 cases among residents and 5,357 cases among staff occurred between April 3, 2020, and Jan. 3, 2021, resulting in a total of 1,651 deaths among residents and 28 deaths among staff.
    • Incarcerated populations: Between March 1, 2020, and Jan. 5, 2021, 2,647 prisoners in South Carolina tested positive for coronavirus. By Jan. 2021, South Carolina jails, prisons and detention facilities were considered a “hot spot” for COVID-19 incidence.

To read the full data brief or for more information compiled by IMPH regarding COVID-19 response, visit