‘We must take action now’: SC epidemiologist shares concern as COVID-19 cases continue rising

DHEC Heat Map 8.10.21 of COVID-19 cases
DHEC Heat Map 8.10.21 of COVID-19 cases(SCDHEC)
Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 7:47 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - South Carolina health leaders are putting out an urgent warning on the current state of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said that in the span of three weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations had tripled statewide.

Bell said the pandemic is again reaching heights that the state had only experienced back in January. She also said the state is currently experiencing the second-highest rate of new daily cases, which is sharply trending upward.

“This is an area that I have studied for my entire career,” Bell said Wednesday. “I want to bring to you today that I have never been more concerned about the health of our state than I am at this time. We are at a public health crisis, and we have to stop transmission now. We must take action now.”

Just over half of eligible South Carolinians have received their first dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile, more than 45,000 doses of vaccine have expired, DHEC officials said.

“We know how to end this pandemic and how to save lives. We know that the COVID vaccines are plentiful; they’re easily accessible everywhere in the state; and anyone 12 years of age and older should get vaccinated immediately in order to get full protection as quickly as possible,” Bell said.

The delta variant is highly transmissible, but still effective at preventing severe disease. Bell warned that high rates of disease can lead to the possibility of new variants emerging, ones that current vaccines may not be able to tackle.

“It previously seemed unimaginable, but we could soon be seeing 5,000-6,000 cases a day if we do not do more now,” Bell said.

The timing of the uptick in spread also is worried to create a perfect storm as the school year begins to get started.

“I implore everyone to help our children and their incredible teachers to have a school year that they deserve. We want our students and teachers to be in person, in safe classrooms, where they can thrive. And we know the measures needed to make that happen,” Bell said.

That means masking and social distancing, according to Bell.

“Waiting longer to consider whether or not to get vaccinated will have a significant cost for more people; it will have a significant cost for our schools, for our hospitals, and our communities,” she said. “The time is now - if we want to move in the right direction to take the right actions.”

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