Coronavirus death rate in NC lower than SC, Virginia – so far

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina’s death rate from coronavirus is noticeably lower than neighboring states South Carolina and Virginia, according to statistics compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

A professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina tells CBS 17 News that the death rates are “not too bad” in either of the Carolinas, adding that the gap could be a reflection of the overall health levels in both states.

RELATED: Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Both Carolinas are testing people at approximately the same rate, with North Carolina running one test for every 255 residents and South Carolina testing one in 240.

According to Johns Hopkins’ running count, North Carolina has had 50 deaths out of 3,055 cases of COVID-19, yielding a death rate of 1.6 percent.

Meanwhile, South Carolina has had 48 deaths out of 2,232 cases, with a death rate of 2.2 percent.

“At this point, if there was a really bad night in a hospital in North Carolina, we would catch up pretty quickly to the South Carolina mortality rate,” said Dr. Lisa Gralinski, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina whose research focuses on human coronaviruses. “We hope that doesn’t happen, but disease is unpredictable.”

North Carolina’s numbers also are lower than those in Virginia, where there are 2,878 cases and 66 deaths for a death rate of 2.3 percent.

The Johns Hopkins data indicates that nationally, there have been at least 11,018 deaths out of at least 369,069 cases – for a death rate of 2.98 percent.

And while North Carolina has just 29 cases per 100,000 residents, according to that data, its neighbors have more – 34 for Virginia, 43 for South Carolina, 56 for Tennessee and 71 for Georgia.

Part of the explanation for North Carolina’s relatively low numbers could be the overall health of the population, Gralinski said.

North Carolina ranked 33rd while South Carolina was 44th in the latest America’s Health Rankings, which breaks down national health on a state basis by evaluating health, environmental and socioeconomic data. The study is produced by the United Health Foundation, which was established by UnitedHealth Group 21 years ago as a not-for-profit, private foundation.

“Overall, South Carolina is a slightly less healthy population,” Gralinski said. “So some of it might come down to morbidities where rates of cardiac disease, hypertension, diabetes – all of these compounding factors that can make people more susceptible to COVID-19 could be playing somewhat of a role.”

It’s still too early for it to show up in the data, but one difference between the Carolinas is that North Carolina enacted a statewide stay-at-home order nine days before South Carolina did.

North Carolina’s began March 30 after many counties – including Mecklenberg and Wake, the two largest – instituted similar orders. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued his order Monday and it took effect this afternoon.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he would encourage “every governor in the country” to impose interventions to slow the spread of the virus, and called for a more unified national strategy to deal with it.

“We’re concerned not only with North Carolina but surrounding states, because we know that people travel pretty freely (across) state lines,” Cooper said. “This clearly is affecting every part of our country. It’s going to affect every part of North Carolina. What I know is that interventions are working to slow the spread and we’ll keep monitoring this, we’ll keep encouraging people because these interventions are only as good as the people who will do it.”

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