By HEATHER RUPPE
The number of deaths in Colleton County associated with the contagious COVID-19 respiratory virus has reached the highest since the pandemic began more than two years ago, topping more than two dozen deaths in one month.
According to Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey, there have been 27 COVID-19 deaths in Colleton County during the month of September. These are Colleton residents who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and who died as either a direct result of the virus or who died from complications associated with having the virus, said Harvey. “Most of these deaths were from pneumonia. The impact on the lungs from this virus is substantial,” he said, on Tuesday.
The 27 deaths is the highest COVID-19 number of deaths in Colleton in one month. It is also putting a substantial strain on the coroner’s office, which handles all death cases – natural, from illness or from tragedy – throughout the entire county.
The local coroner’s office normally handles about 25-30 death cases per month. This has been the average for the last several years. Since COVID-19 started, however, the number of death cases that the local coroner’s office handles each month has nearly tripled. The Colleton County Coroner’s Office is staffed by Harvey, who is an elected and full-time certified coroner. Additionally, the local coroner’s office has Chief Deputy Wayne Walker and two part-time employees.
“If we keep on this trend, we are looking at having about triple the number of death cases. Right now, we are sitting at 477 death cases in 2021,” he said, on Tuesday morning. “In 2020, we had 545 deaths, and that increase was also a result of COVID-19.”
“I’m estimating we will have between 600 and 700 deaths this year, in Colleton County,” said Harvey.
Harvey cannot say whether or not those who died in Colleton from the virus were vaccinated or unvaccinated: that is medical information protected through federal privacy laws.
Meanwhile, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is urging more South Carolinians to get vaccinated. Adults who are already vaccinated against the virus and who are over the age of 65 , are over the age of 18 and who have an underlying health condition, or who work with high-risk setting, such as health care, are also being urged to get a booster shot.
As of Tuesday, Oct. 5th, approximately 60 percent of all South Carolina residents who are eligible to receive the vaccine (age 12 and older) have received one dose of the two-dose vaccination process. Additionally, DHEC is reporting that nearly 53 percent of all state residents are now fully vaccinated, as of Oct. 5th.
Besides the COVID-19 virus, Harvey said most of the deaths that are occurring in Colleton County right now are natural death cases and are not a result of increased fatal crashes or crime in the county.