SC scientist, UofSC professor warns coronavirus cases could skyrocket in April

SC scientist, UofSC professor warns coronavirus cases could skyrocket in April

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Dr. James Morris is a distinguished professor at the University of South Carolina.

He usually predicts rising sea levels with forecasting, data, and modeling. Earlier this month, Morris began tracking cases of COVID-19 here in South Carolina.

According to projections released Wednesday afternoon by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), they are anticipating more than 2,600 cases of COVID-19 in the Palmetto State by next week.

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Dr. Morris said that his model shows that number could be higher. His model forecasts the exponential growth of cases in the state. He said, according to his research, it takes two and a half days for the number of cases in South Carolina to double.

"Every infected person in two and a half days will infect another person,” he said. “In two and a half more days, that person will infect another person and the original person will infect another person and so on."

Dr. Morris' model shows growth in South Carolina if people do not practice social distancing. He said we could see more than 4,000 cases of the coronavirus by the beginning of April. Midway through the month, that number could increase to over 9,000.

Morris did mention his model does show the curve will eventually flatten, but he’s worried about a sharp increase in cases putting a burden on South Carolina hospitals.

“As the efforts to contain the virus succeed, the transmission rate will go down," he said. "It’s not going to go down immediately. The cases will keep climbing as we do more testing.”

Morris said he has sent a letter to the Governor's Office with his projections.

According to DHEC, there are 1,260 ventilators at South Carolina hospitals. They said hospitals are reporting 180 are in use at the moment. State epidemiologist, Dr. Linda Bell, said the model Morris is using does not take into account population density. She said the exponential growth used by Morris could be off because there was a big jump in the number of reported cases from March 21 to March 22.

"While it looked like a significant jump of cases, it was from samples held over from the previous day," Dr. Bell said.

DHEC also said various factors like social distancing and warmer weather could slow the spread of the coronavirus.

During the governor’s press conference on Thursday, DHEC said they currently have a backlog of 1600 samples at their Public Health Lab waiting to be tested.

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