UofSC project aims to find out ‘true number’ of people who’ve been infected with COVID in SC

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 8:05 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2021 at 11:38 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - More than half of all the COVID-19 cases reported in a statewide, voluntary survey on the spread of the coronavirus in South Carolina were asymptomatic.

“South Carolina Strong” is a months-long project conducted by the University of South Carolina and DHEC that aims to find the “true number” of people in South Carolina who have contracted COVID-19, according to the website.

Starting in November 2020, the researchers sent out blue envelopes to people across the state asking people to get a viral COVID-19 test and an antibody test. They also asked participants to fill out a health survey online.

“We are randomly selecting people from across the state, so it allows us that opportunity to identify if there are new symptoms associated with COVID that we haven’t thought of before as we are seeing these new variants. Or it also allows tells us at which rate asymptomatic infection is occurring,” UofSC Associate Professor Melissa Nolan said.

According to data from the 1,300 people from the latest group of volunteers, 61 percent of people who contracted COVID-19 in the past few weeks have not had any symptoms.

Nolan said the majority of respondents to the project’s survey who were positive for COVID also had a close family member who was infected. She said this indicates the virus is more likely to spread in people’s homes rather than out in the community.

“Families were a big interest with us. Parents with a sick kid were four and a half more times likely to be positive than parents without a sick kid,” Nolan said.

The project also found children are getting infected at a much higher rate now than they were earlier on in the pandemic.

According to preliminary data from August, about one in three parents have had to quarantine their child or currently have a child in quarantine because of potential COVID exposure at school, daycare, or after-school programs.

“The COVID we are dealing with this fall is very different from the COVID we were dealing with last fall. With the Delta variant, we really are seeing kids get significantly sicker. So the higher level of virus you have in your body coordinates with the higher potential to transmit, so they have more virus, they are getting sicker and they have a higher chance to transmit,” Nolan said.

Nolan explained with the delta variant, they are finding people have a higher viral load, which means they can spread it more easily.

“I strongly encourage you to consider getting vaccinated because there is a good chance you may find yourself at home taking care of a bunch of sick kiddos,” Nolan said.

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