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COVID-19 updates: S.C. ranks 50th in vaccine distribution as deaths, cases soar in 2-state region

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 8:06 AM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - South Carolina is ranked 50th in the country in terms of vaccines distributed by the federal government and while Georgia doubled the number vaccinated within a week, the state still trails many of its peers.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows South Carolina has received about 8,500 vaccines per 100,000 people.

On Wednesday, state health officials reassured people that the state is getting its fair share of doses.

They said that the data showed vaccines are being given to long-term care facilities.

Because South Carolina put more doses toward the effort initially, it has not needed federal shipments unlike other states.

“We’ve looked at that, and our pro-rata allocations to South Carolina are not less,” said state Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell. “That’s some sort of myth that’s being perpetuated.”

Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim public health director with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, said: “DHEC, the CDC and Operation Warp Speed all agree South Carolina is receiving its fair and appropriate allocation.”

Meanwhile, DHEC released new guidance to vaccine providers to help speed up the vaccine process. that includes warning against overordering vaccines and making sure they’re getting enough of the vaccine from each vial.

The move comes on the heels of reports that the state broke its single-week record for deaths the week of Jan. 9, tallying 329 confirmed and suspected deaths. The previous record was 325 deaths, counted the week of July 25.

Georgia’s Department of Public Health reports over half a million people in the Peach State have been given the vaccine. That’s just over half of the total vaccine doses currently available in the state.

In South Carolina, state officials say almost a fifth of a million people have been vaccinated. That’s about 45 percent of the state’s available vaccine doses.

Some parents can get vaccine

South Carolina health officials are making a few thousands parents eligible for the coronavirus vaccine.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says parents who are home caregivers of medically fragile or severely disabled children can now get the shot.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell estimates that would make about 3,000 more people eligible for the vaccine.

Demand has skyrocketed since the state made the vaccine available to people aged 70 and older.

An emerging threat

Health officials in the two-state region are still monitoring the new COVID-19 variant that has been found in multiple countries, including the U.S.

There are five confirmed cases of it in Georgia. Although none have been reported in South Carolina yet, health officials say that doesn’t mean it is not in the state already.

Experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there is currently no evidence the new strain is more deadly. However, it could lead to more hospitalizations because it spreads faster.

A speedy vaccine rollout would be helpful in stopping variants from developing so quickly, says Dr. Helmut Albrecht of the University of South Carolina Prisma Health

Albrecht says he believes the current vaccines work against previous virus mutations.

By the numbers

  • COVID hospitalizations in the CSRA are staying close to all-time highs. The trend since the beginning of December has shown a steady increase. University Hospital matched its record Thursday with 149 COVID inpatients, the same number it saw Wednesday. For now, AU Health and Doctors Hospital show a slight decline.
  • Georgia faced another tough day Wednesday with just under 150 deaths. More than 300 people have died in just the past two days. The state also reported more than 5,700 new cases.
  • Richmond County is averaging more than 150 cases over the past seven days, while Columbia County is averaging around 80 cases a day.
  • South Carolina on Wednesday recorded its second-deadliest day from COVID-19. Cases spiked, with 1,000 more infections than Tuesday as 3,500 new cases were reported. One in four people tested Wednesday had the disease. In the Midlands, 82 percent of hospital beds were full, and in Aiken, 87 percent were full.

Also in the news

  • South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control says it will launch a phone line dedicated to helping answer vaccine questions. Officials say new call center will be up and running in the coming days, and they’ll provide more details when it’s ready. The agency’s care line has received about 24,000 calls a day since vaccine appointments were made available to those 70 and older. Overwhelmed by the calls, the agency has turned to National Guard and South Carolina State Guard members for help answering the phone.
  • If you’ve been struggling to schedule a vaccine appointment and you live in the Palmetto State, Prisma Health is trying to make it more accessible. It’s now allowing people 70 and older to make in-person appointments rather than just online or over the phone. This only applies to South Carolinians, and the closest Prisma Health location is in Columbia.
  • On Friday, Augusta University Health will start giving the first 100 public vaccines. It’s expecting 1,000 more doses from the state this week. The hospital built a new vaccine registration platform so patients can schedule their first and second shots. The hospital will put it all to the test at Professional Building One, where 100 people already selected to get the vaccine. AU Health and University Hospital also got approval to open vaccination clinics in Aiken County.
  • Augusta University President Brooks Keel will give an update on the university’s COVID-19 response and the vaccine during a virtual town hall meeting at 3 p.m. Friday. Access the livestream here. Email questions in advance to mediarelations@augusta.edu.
  • The governor of South Carolina will be in our area today. He will be touring a long-term care facility and vaccination clinic in Aiken.

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