PEAK IN CASES: Prisma Health staff shed light on extent of omicron variant spread

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — With more than 13,000 new cases and 25 new deaths reported in South Carolina today by DHEC, health officials are warning people about the risks of the omicron variant.

It has become the most common form of COVID in the state and is being called “highly contagious”.

“Welcome to this roller coaster ride called COVID. We’re at this again,” said Dr. Steve Shelton, Prisma Health incident commander. “We’re in another rise up into a peak and this one could potentially surpass previous peaks that we’ve had.”

Prisma Health hospital reports 438 in-patients. This is up from 85 in December and close to the pandemic high number of 568 patients.

 “The omicron variant is extremely contagious. As you can imagine, it is not only spreading in the communities, but also impacting our team members.”

Prisma’s children’s hospital is seeing a similar high number of patients.

“Yesterday had an in-patient capacity of about 86 percent. Our PICU was at 93 percent,” reports Dr. Caughman Taylor, Prisma Health Midlands Children’s Hospital director.

“These children are unvaccinated. Our children admitted are either too young to be vaccinated, younger than 5 years of age, or older but not yet received the vaccine,” adds Dr. Robin LaCroix, Prisma Health infectious disease specialist. 

Pediatricians are worried as schools are starting back this week.

“We are very concerned that we may exceed those numbers of hospitalizations based on the statewide positivity rate being above 20 percent,” Taylor said.

At Prisma Health hospital, 80 percent of the adult patients in the hospital are unvaccinated. Dr. Shelton encourages getting vaccinated if you’re not.

“In addition, we are strongly encouraging booster vaccinations for those that are eligible,” Shelton said. “It’s been shown to have some increased effectiveness against the omicron variant. We want to make sure we’re doing the best to keep you safe.”

For those fully boosted or unvaccinated alike, health officials recommend social distancing, wearing masks and washing your hands often, as they have the entire pandemic.

“We’re encouraging people to continue the safeguards that we know have been effective in the past,” LaCroix said. “We want the public to have all the information and protections that they can.”

Dr. Shelton also asks people to not come to Prisma’s emergency services looking for COVID testing.

Instead, you can check out SC DHEC’s website.

Categories: Local News, Richland