S.C. ‘hasn’t rounded the corner’ in COVID surge yet, health dept. says

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 4:28 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina’s assistant state epidemiologist said she does not yet feel South Carolina has “rounded the corner” in the latest surge of COVID-19.

Dr. Jean Kelly responded to a question about rapidly declining numbers of cases after a large spike.

“Well while, thankfully, daily case numbers have seen a recent decline, I wouldn’t say we’ve rounded the corner just yet,” she said. “Cases can certainly fluctuate at any given time and we may experience a surge again.”

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Kelly said earlier this year, many believed we had rounded a corner primarily because of a large increase in vaccinations.

“I think we’re going to need to see that again if we’re going to truly turn a corner and beat that pandemic, increasing vaccinations and masking are the keys to beating COVID-19,” Kelly said. “Also we did just enjoy a long holiday weekend, Labor Day. Some folks were out and about, not being tested on those days while they were enjoying the holiday. So any gathering of vulnerable populations may drive the number of cases up.”

But she said any gathering that could have affect new cases may not be seen until up to 14 days after the event.

“So we need to remain vigilant as we continue to battle cuts COVID-19 and all forms,” she said.

Kelly: ‘We have a pandemic of misinformation as well’

Kelly said health workers are battling not only the virus that causes COVID-19 but also the rapid spread of false information.

“Unfortunately, people don’t necessarily know the difference between a credible source of information and things that get posted on social media that then just seem to spread like wildfire,” she said. “They spread as mythology. They spread is misinformation.”

Kelly responded to a question about a man who spoke at an Aiken County School District meeting. He claimed to be the grandfather of four students in the district and argued the pandemic was “fake” and that the vaccines are actually some kind of “gene therapy,” which health experts have consistently denied.

The journalist who posed the question added that despite the deaths of five students and teachers within the same week, the same man returned to the meeting Tuesday night and demanded a stop to what he called “fear porn” about COVID-19.

“That’s just a little disheartening that five deaths aren’t a wake-up call,” Kelly said.

DHEC to release new weekly data on COVID-19 in schools

Kelly also announced DHEC has updated its online school COVID-19 dashboard where it releases the latest data on the pandemic in schools.

As of Wednesday, the old dashboard would be archived and replaced, she said. The new report will be updated once a week and will include data provided directly from K-12 schools.

The report will include the number of students and school staff who are isolated – meaning they are a positive COVID-19 case; the number who are quarantined – meaning they are close contacts; and the cumulative number of individuals quarantined and isolated since the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Kelly said DHEC decided to make the change for multiple reasons.

“First, isolation and quarantine numbers provided directly from the schools show a better real-time picture of showing how COVID is impacting our schools,” she said. “In addition, school districts are already reporting cases for the public to see. This will eliminate any confusion that might result between their case numbers and DHEC’s case numbers, due to differing methods of identifying cases, and it allows DHEC to focus on a statewide outlook, while the individual school districts provide their local case numbers.”

The new dashboard will be updated every Wednesday, she said.

The Pfizer version of the COVID-19 vaccine could become approved for use in children from ages 5-12 as early as Halloween. When the vaccine in younger children is approved, Kelly said DHEC will immediately work to ensure the state has enough doses to accommodate what they hope will be “a high demand” for the vaccine.

DHEC has previously partnered with schools and school districts to vaccinate children over the age of 12 and Kelly said that would likely happen again for younger children.

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