Doctors report rise in COVID cases and hospitalizations: What to know

Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 7:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - “To wear a mask or to not wear a mask?” is the question at the top of mind for some parents as students return back to the classroom while doctors report an increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

When it comes to hospitalizations, doctors are seeing a clear increase compared to this time last month. More than double the hospitalizations have been reported but when it comes to the exact number of cases, that’s a little more difficult to track.

“So many people are testing at home,” said Dr. Jonathan Knoche, a medical consultant with the Department of Health.

At home COVID results don’t have to be reported to health departments, which makes tracking the number of Covid cases difficult. Dr. Jonathan Knoche is a medical consultant with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. He said right now health experts are using other data to keep up with the progression of COVID.

“What we can follow are the number of hospitalizations due to covid, the number of ED visits due to covid and the number of deaths due to Covid,” Knoche said. “So, that’s a good marking and we’re seeing those numbers increase.”

According to Knoche, the week of Aug. 5 there were 150 COVID hospitalizations. At the beginning of July there were just 74. Knoche points to a new COVID variant for the increase.

“The current circulating strain seems to be causing more infections and is spreading easier than maybe some of the other subvariants, but is not causing any worse symptoms on any individual patient per se,” Knoche said. “Because it is more easily transmissible, that’s why we’re seeing more cases and hospitalizations.”

Symptoms of BG.5 are a cough, runny nose and fatigue.

“We just started school. So, you have more of that close contact with students,” Dr. Craig Witherspoon, the superintendent of Richland School District One, said. “Whether that’s through the sports teams or in classroom.”

While they are not requiring students to wear masks or maintain social distancing, the district is following DHEC protocols if a student were to test positive for COVID, Witherspoon added.

“Making a determination again within those 1 to 5 days of symptoms of respiratory illness. That exclusion and then moving forward from there,” Dr. Witherspoon explained.

While Richland School District One leaders are not anticipating returning to online learning this year, they said they are prepared. Knoche also advises anyone at risk of severe symptoms of COVID to mask up and maintain social distancing as well as staying up to date on COVID shots and boosters.

Knoche said another COVID vaccine booster shot coming out sometime in September will protect against the newer variant EG.5.

Richland School District Two COVID policy includes a 5-day isolation for students and employees who test positive for COVID. They also recommend that person wear a mask for six to 10 days after returning to school.

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