New testing site opens in Columbia as health officials warn of continued surge in COVID-19 cases

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Since the start of the new year, COVID-19 case numbers and positivity rate has been on the rise.

It has caused a rush of people to get tested as many of the new omicron cases are asymptotic.

“Although the percentage of patients that are being hospitalized with omicron is not as high as previous variants, the number of people getting sick is much higher,” said Dr. Wendell James, Prisma Health chief clinical officer.

This week, each day has brought more than 10,000 new cases across South Carolina. One doctor here in the Midlands predicts a difficult few weeks ahead.

 “We are going to keep seeing an increase. 80 percent of us are going to be infected in a few weeks I think. It’s so infectious,” said Dr. Divya Ahuja, Prisma infectious disease specialist.

However, he urges people to continue to follow health guidelines to prevent a surge in cases that overwhelms hospital resources, especially with many healthcare staff testing positive for the virus and having to quarantine. 

To help with the uptick in people getting tested for COVID, a new site has opened in Columbia.

“I like that there are cars, but I like that they are moving. That’s the big thing. We want people coming, but we want this to be efficient,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC public health director.

The Columbia Place Mall Site replaces the Bull Street location which is now only offering vaccinations. Those who have symptoms of COVID should quarantine while waiting for test results but what about those exposed but without symptoms?

“If you have had an exposure, whether or not you need to be quarantined depends on your vaccination status,” Traxler said.

The surge in COVID 19 cases has forced some schools to temporarily return to distance learning, such as Dent Middle School. It has also landed dozens of children across the Palmetto State in the hospital. This is why health officials are urging parents to get their children vaccinated.

“How do you prevent your child from getting hospitalized with COVID? The best way you can do that is to get your child vaccinated if they are eligible, especially if there are comorbidities involved,” said Dr. Anna Kathryn Burch, Prisma pediatric infectious disease specialist.

Comorbidities include obesity or diabetes, which can make your child more prone to severe illness from the virus.

To gain more protection, no matter your age, a third dose of vaccine is recommended.

 “It seems that the third shot is necessary for protection from omicron,” Ahuja said. “People still talk about waiting to see what happens with the vaccine. I don’t know what they are waiting for.”

The new Columbia Place Mall Site is open for COVID-19 testing 7 days a week from 7:30 in the morning to 7 in the evening. You can also pick up an at home saliva test kit there as well.

Categories: Local News, Richland