SC hits two grim COVID milestones after post-New Years surge

DHEC says improvements are coming to SC testing system
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Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 9:32 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As South Carolina enters another calendar year of fighting COVID-19, the Department of Health and Environmental control is marking two grim milestones.

The agency is reporting back-to-back days of record-breaking COVID-19 cases on the first two days of the new year after more than 10,000 new cases were reported on Saturday and Sunday.

New Year’s Day also was the day when South Carolina officially surpassed one million COVID-19 cases,

“In less than two years, COVID-19 has infected over 1,000,000 of our citizens and impacted the lives of all of us,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC director. “This milestone is another reminder that COVID-19 has caused one of the most severe pandemics our nation and state has ever seen, and with the Omicron variant, we unfortunately are seeing record numbers of cases.”

DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said she would have never dreamed this would happen when she heard of an outbreak of cases in Wuhan, China two years ago

“Over one million people have been infected and that’s a fifth of the population in South Carolina and all those are people’s loved ones and thankfully the vast majority did not die. The vast majority probably did not have severe, lasting effects, but for those who did and their family members and friends…that is life changing,” Traxler said.

She said the spike in cases and the emergence of this highly transmittable variant, comes with an increase in demand for testing.

Dr. Traxler said her team is aware of the long lines people are waiting in for a test, the lack of availability of rapid tests, and knows some people are waiting more than five days for test results.

“We hear them, we recognize and share some of those frustrations,” she said.

However, she said her team is focused on fixing some of these issues.

“We are adding testers at our sites that currently exist to increase the throughput, we are also adding sites and new testing vendors, and we are also in the process of purchasing about half a million rapid-antigen tests for at-home use…that distribution is still to be determined,” she said.

She does not think the lines will stay this long at some testing sites forever. But, because of holiday-related delays in testing and analyzing results, how rapidly omicron is spreading, and the lag in results being released for some days around the holidays, she thinks we will continue to see case numbers rise.

In fact, DHEC says it is likely because of these delays and the popularity of rapid tests, the data they are releasing is most likely undercounting the actual rate of virus circulating around the state.

“We don’t know how many rapid at-home tests are being performed in the state, or how many people order online and ship it in. So not knowing how many tests were performed, it’s hard to know how many of those could be positive,” she said.

However, the message is the same whether the peak of this wave is upon us or weeks away: testing is important and vaccines save lives.

“COVID-19 is not behind us,” she said, “And should energize us further to take the actions needed to stop the spread of this virus.”

To find a DHEC testing location near you or track new locations as they pop up go to this link.

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