South Carolina health experts warn against complacency as COVID fight continues in the state

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — With new COVID-19 cases in the state decreasing over the past week and more people in South Carolina getting vaccinated, it can be easy to think that the pandemic is behind us.

However, health experts warn that the dangers of the virus are still just as present as ever.

‘Every analysis shows clearly that the majority of COVID-19 cases, including severe cases, are among those who are not fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Jane Kelly, assistant state epidemiologist.

Currently, 53 percent of people in South Carolina are fully vaccinated and more than 61 percent have at least one dose. Coupled with lower numbers of new cases, it might sound like positive news.

“We can’t put this pandemic behind us yet though,” Dr. Kelly said. “I would caution people to not think we have turned a corner, but rather have a downward trend we would like to maintain.”

Fewer new COVID cases in the past week can be explained by a couple of things according to the epidemiologist.

“Vaccination rates. They are not increasing as much as we would like but they are slowly increasing,” Kelly said. “People are also practicing mitigation measures.”

Not enough people in the state are vaccinated according to a Prisma Health infectious disease specialist.  He says that while colleges such as USC have handled the pandemic well this semester, more people in the 18 to 24 age range need to roll up their sleeves to stop the spread of the virus.

“Absolutely, because asymptomatic infection, the more likely the younger you are, is the driver of this pandemic,” said Dr. Helmut Albrecht of Prisma Health. “Certainly, we need to get immunity either through disease or immunization at a pretty high level considering the delta variant is so infectious.”

Dr. Albrecht believes that the contagious delta variant means that instead of 70 percent, 90 percent of the state needs to be vaccinated before we reach herd immunity. It’s why he has not gone to many large gatherings this year.

“I love to go to football games but I haven’t been this year. For myself, I made the assumption that it’s probably not a good thing to do,” he said “I have two new grandchildren I don’t even want to bring a low symptomatic infection to.”

He adds that booster shots of the vaccines will help protect people from being hospitalized because of COVID, but warns that things will not get back to normal while so much vaccine hesitancy still exists.

“My wife always asks when this will be over. I say there’s good news and bad news,” Albrecht said “The good news is it will be over by April. The bad news is that I don’t know what year.”

Dr. Albrecht expects a rise in cases after Thanksgiving but believes that a large surge in cases will be seen at a local level and not nationwide.

Categories: Local News, Richland