SC’s COVID surge peaked in mid-January, health department says

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) — South Carolina’s director of public health said Wednesday that the state hit its peak in COVID-19 cases during the week of Jan. 15.

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Dr. Brannon Traxler said the state had a total of 116,889 cases for this week and had seen a steady decline over the past two weeks since during.

She said new cases fell to a total of 63,003 for the week of January 29, noting that the majority of those cases are Omicron.

Traxler said she expects the rate of case decline to accelerate if the vaccination rate were to increase.

Vaccination of young children would be the “last piece of the puzzle”

Traxler, when asked about Pfizer’s pursuit of an emergency use authorization for its version of a vaccine designed for children as young as 6 months old, called the approval “the final piece of the vaccination puzzle.” “.

“It is the population that has still not been eligible. We talk a lot about how anyone can get vaccinated if they want to, but the reality is there are younger kids who haven’t had that ability until now,” he said. she declared.

She said if the vaccine was approved for young children and all vaccination rates started to increase, we would also see “corresponding decreases in cases”.

Traxler praises ‘test to stay’ program as ‘big step’ towards normalcy

She also referenced the state’s “Test to Stay” program, which involves the use of rapid tests sent to school districts across the state as an important tool in the state’s fight against COVID-19. in class.

The agency said Monday it “strongly encourages” schools to use the protocol, which it says will allow more students to stay in class.

“It’s a big step back to our normal reality,” she said.

According to the guidelines, students who have been exposed to COVID-19 can remain in school, provided they are asymptomatic and test negative between days five to seven.

Traxler said while research shows someone infected with Omicron is most contagious in the first five days, the program is part of a larger “layered strategy” to stop the spread, including the monitoring symptoms and staying home if you have symptoms.

She said the Test to Stay program was tested in two districts in Illinois and California by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last semester.

“Testing to stay allows rapid antigen tests or PCR tests that have a rapid turnaround time of 24 hours or less to be performed on unvaccinated students who have been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 but who don’t have symptoms in the hope that more of them can stay in the classroom rather than immediately move them (quarantine them),” Traxler said. “Test to Stay allows students to stay in class if they test negative on days five to seven. They wear a mask for 10 days after exposure and have no symptoms.

Traxler said she hopes the number of students in isolation due to positive COVID-19 tests will drop significantly as Omicron cases continue to drop and ‘test to stay’ protocols increase. additionally used.

She said while it’s important to keep children in an “in-person learning environment”, it’s equally important that they are safe in that environment with “as little risk of infection as possible”.

MUSC said Monday its data showed the Tri-County area hit its peak of Omicron cases on Jan. 15, but reported it was still seeing an increase in hospitalizations.

DHEC COVID-19 briefings usually take place on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. The agency did not specify the reason for the time change this week.

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