COVID spike in SC causing more interest in testing, holidays will delay results

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Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 6:31 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 23, 2021 at 7:50 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - COVID-19 cases in South Carolina are higher than they have been since October and with Christmas around the corner people are lining up to get tested before seeing family.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is reporting more people getting tested the week before their holiday than they have seen in months. A staff member at DHEC’s Bull St. testing site says some people were waiting 35-45 minutes to get tested Thursday, which hasn’t been the case since late summer.

Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly says she is glad to see the increase in testing as more people have possible exposures to COVID.

“In June of 2021 we were seeing fewer than 100 new cases a day, now we are seeing more than 2000 more cases a day,” she said.

However, DHEC says people should expect results to take longer than the usual 24 to 48 hours turnaround time because of limited staff and hours at testing sites and labs.

Kelly says if someone is concerned that their symptoms are COVID, they should act as if they are infected and avoid gathering with others, especially people who are immunocompromised. For people who are being cautious or worried about possible exposure and not experiencing symptoms, Kelly advises adding other layers of protection if PCR or rapid testing isn’t available.

“Wearing a mask, keeping a distance, if the weather is nice enough, going outside,” she said. While everyone needs to make their own risk assessment, Kelly said people should think about the immunocompromised people they will be seeing over the holiday before deciding what precautions they will and won’t take.

“Who is the most vulnerable person in the room? And take your steps from there. If everyone is vaccinated and boosted, I think you are in a pretty good situation to get together with minimal risk. But if it’s a mixed group and you are with someone who has an autoimmune have to think about how to best protect that person,” Kelly said.

She said while hospitalizations and deaths aren’t spiking now, it is possible that hospitals could be overwhelmed in the new year if people don’t take precautions or don’t get vaccinated and boosted. However this Christmas the concern isn’t just a spike in cases from gatherings, it’s also the highly contagious nature of the Omicron variant.

“Delta is still the predominant variant but of course, with this increase, it raises the suspicion that Omicron is circulating in South Carolina as well. The key thing it does is it spreads more easily. We don’t have more evidence it causes more severe disease at this time. But of course, if you have more cases, inevitably, you are going to have more cases of people who have severe disease and need to be hospitalized.”

Unfortunately, Kelly says some of the treatments hospitals have been using for COVID patients seem to be less effective against Omicron.

“Two of the monoclonal antibody treatments we have been using in [South Carolina] are probably much less effective against Omicron. Yes, we have new pills on the horizon...but they will be in quite limited supply initially. Unvaccinated people who plan to get [monoclonal antibody treatment] if infected are taking a new level of risk,” she wrote in a message to reporters.

To find a COVID testing site or vaccination site near you can go here.

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