South Carolina teachers and other essential workers could begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines in mid-March, according to South Carolina's health agency director.
Dr. Edward Simmer, director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, estimated Wednesday that the state is two or three weeks away from being able to switch phases because "there are still that many seniors in line who want this vaccine and can’t get it right now because we don’t have enough."
The next phase, 1b, will include the following frontline workers: firefighters, law enforcement officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers and those who work in the educational sector – teachers, support staff and daycare workers.
The estimated population of phase 1b is 573,501 residents.
The state is currently in phase 1a, which includes health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff and residents aged 65 or older. The estimated population of phase 1a is 1,296,246, with many of these residents having already received the vaccine.
DHEC's website estimates that phase 1c could begin in late spring. That phase will include residents aged 16 and older with underlying health conditions, as well as the following essential workers: residents who work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety and public health staff who are non-frontline health care workers.
The estimated population of phase 1c is 2,588,320 residents.
The state could then move into phase 2 around the summertime, which would allow any residents who wants the vaccine to receive it.
During a Wednesday press briefing, DHEC announced the amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses that have been wasted so far: 2,619 doses were wasted due to broken vials or syringes, 815 doses expired due to open vials that expired and 177 doses were put in syringes, but not administered.
Nick Davidson, DHEC's senior deputy for public health, said these numbers may seem high, but are pretty low considering all the doses the state has administered.
DHEC confirmed 23 COVID-19 cases in Aiken County on Wednesday.
The agency confirmed a total of 896 cases and 25 coronavirus-related deaths across South Carolina on Wednesday. None of the reported deaths were in Aiken County.
The data reported Wednesday is for the date of Feb. 22.
As of Feb. 24, South Carolina has received 1,084,750 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine and has administered 813,788. There are currently 501,092 vaccine appointments scheduled throughout the state.
A total of 19,575 COVID-19 vaccines, which includes first and second doses, have been administered in Aiken County.
CVS announced Wednesday it has increased the number of locations across South Carolina that offer the COVID-19 vaccine. A list of locations, along with the availability of the vaccine at each, can be found online at cvs.com. Residents without online access can call the CVS customer service line at 800-746-7287.
Wednesday's report brings the total confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Aiken County to 11,966, with 166 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths.
Aiken County also has reported a total of 3,579 probable COVID-19 cases and 35 probable coronavirus-related deaths.
In neighboring Barnwell and Edgefield counties, four and eight virus cases were confirmed, respectively, on Wednesday.
According to DHEC's acute hospital bed occupancy report, Aiken County hospitals are at 85.2% occupancy. There are 132 beds occupied, while there are 23 beds open. Across the entire state, there are 968 COVID-19 patients hospitalized.
The total number of individual test results reported to DHEC statewide Wednesday was 16,333, and the percent positive was 8.8%.
The total number of cases statewide is now 438,861, with 70,183 probable cases, 7,460 confirmed deaths and 938 probable deaths.