South Carolina COVID-19 Update for African Americans: October 11, 2020

by Dr. Algernon Austin, Senior Researcher, Thurgood Marshall Institute

At this time, South Carolina has the 14th highest COVID-19 death rate, and the 26th highest coronavirus-case rate. African Americans make up a disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths in the state. Seven of the top ten coronavirus-case hot spots and eight of the top ten COVID-19-deaths hot spots are in counties where African Americans make up a larger share of the population than their statewide average.

South Carolina’s Covid Exit Strategy rating: Uncontrolled Spread.

As of October 11, 2020, South Carolina had the 26th highest number of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 over the last seven days of any state in the United States. It had the 14th highest number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 over the same period.[1]

Currently, the number of new coronavirus cases in South Carolina is averaging about 800 without a clear trend up or down (Figure 1). The number of new COVID-19 deaths has been trending downward since it peaked in late July (Figure 2).

Using data collected on October 11, 2020 by the COVID Tracking Project, the Thurgood Marshall Institute compared the share of Black people in South Carolina to the share of Black people among South Carolina’s coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths. South Carolina had no substantial discrepancy between the Black share of the state population (27.0 percent) and the Black share of coronavirus cases in the state (25.6 percent). On the other hand, 34.7 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the state were of African Americans — 7.7 percentage points higher than the Black share of the state population.[2]

African Americans in South Carolina should pressure officials to find and address the root cause of this high rate of Black COVID-19 deaths. Is it due to inequalities in access to medical care or to differing rates of comorbidities? This is an answerable question, and Black South Carolinians should see that they receive the answer.

Black communities in South Carolina should be highly vigilant about COVID-19. Seven of the top ten coronavirus-case hot spots are in counties where African Americans make up a larger share of the population than their statewide average (Table). Eight of the top ten hot spots for COVID-19 deaths are in counties that are disproportionately African American, and three of them are in majority African American counties. Since Black South Carolinians are disproportionately dying from COVID-19, they should use their voices to call for stronger policies and more resources to address the pandemic both nationally and in their state.

Research in South Carolina has shown that masks are effective at lowering the coronavirus infection rate.

The coronavirus’ spread slowed in most Beaufort County ZIP codes within five weeks after local mask mandates went into effect this past summer, according to a new Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette analysis of S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control data.[3]

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control calls on residents to follow COVID-19 public health guidelines which include maintaining a six foot physical distance from others in public, wearing face masks when not at home, washing one’s hands frequently, and staying home if you are sick.[4]

Additional Resources

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control: https://scdhec.gov/covid19

Covid Exit Strategy: https://www.covidexitstrategy.org/

Answers to frequently asked questions about the new coronavirus by the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-tips-advice.html

[1] Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest map and case count, N.Y. Times (Oct. 12, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html.

[2] The Black share of cases and deaths is a conservative estimate. 26.7 percent of the coronavirus cases and 13.7 percent of the COVID-19 deaths are of an unknown race. If any of these unknowns are Black, then the Black share of cases and deaths would be higher.

[3] Sam Ogozalek, How effective are COVID-19 mask rules in Hilton Head, Bluffton? Here’s what data show, The Island Packet (Oct. 12, 2020), https://www.islandpacket.com/news/coronavirus/article246337150.html.

[4] Protect Yourself & Those Around You (COVID-19), S.D. Dep’t of Health & Env’t Control (last visited Oct. 12, 2020), https://scdhec.gov/covid19/protect-yourself-those-around-you-covid-19.

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