Lowcountry doctors expect a spike in COVID-19 cases after holidays

South Carolina News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Lowcountry health experts say South Carolina is in the calm before the storm as COVID-19 cases are spiking in other parts of the United States as well as in countries such as Denmark, the United Kingdom, and more.

States including New York, New Jersey, and Florida are inundated with cases just days before Christmas. Over 18,000 new cases were reported on Sunday in New York. Back at home, the seven-day average of cases in South Carolina is just over 1,000.

Holiday travel could bring the spike in cases to the Palmetto State more quickly as over 100 million Americans are expected to board planes, trains, and cars over the next ten days.

“We certainly have concerns that people will travel to South Carolina from areas with more Omicron cases, or they’ll travel out of South Carolina and then return,” said Dr. Jane Kelly, the Assistant State Epidemiologist.

Omicron is not the only variant to keep an eye on. The Delta variant still accounts for 97% of cases in the United States and over 99% of cases in South Carolina, according to Dr. Kelly.

“Delta has a more serious profile in terms of outcomes it appears. We need more information, but it’s looking that way so far. And Omicron, on the other hand, infects many many more people. So, it becomes a complicated situation but we really do face both Delta and Omicron potentially concurrently for a period of time,” explained Dr. Michael Sweat of the Medical University of South Carolina.

Last week, the first three cases of Omicron were identified in South Carolina, but Dr. Sweat believes it’s circulating. MUSC and DHEC scientists are still working on sequencing COVID-19 tests in the state, but that takes time.

“I believe there very much is Omicron now circulating in South Carolina. The system does not test every case in the state. We test as many as we are able to test and we have to do them in batches so they don’t come out every day. But I believe Omicron is here and circulating. There’s no question.”

Both doctors say that although data shows Omicron is more transmissible than Delta, information health experts have gathered so far shows it is likely less severe in terms of illness.

Unlike last year’s post-holiday spike, Dr. Kelly says we now have the tools to better handle a surge. Those tools include vaccines, booster shots, pretreatment options such as monoclonal antibody treatments, and higher testing capabilities.

Doctors recommend getting vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible or taking COVID-19 tests before attending any holiday gatherings.

For more information on the Omicron variant, click here.

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