State public health officials announced that on New Year’s Day, South Carolina officially surpassed the 1 million mark for total COVID-19 cases. The Department of Health and Environmental Control said the milestone was reached as the state is in the middle of an unprecedented wave of new cases spurred by the omicron variant.
For the week ending Jan. 4, the most recent weekly data available by The Berkeley Independent's print deadline, DHEC reported a total of 50,653 cases for the previous week. It was the highest weekly total of the entire pandemic.
“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, in a statement. “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."
While public health officials said this newest strain of COVID-19 does not appear to cause as severe symptoms as previous strains, DHEC continues to recommend frequent testing, mask wearing when possible, and getting vaccinated with a booster shot. Numbers from the health agency show as of Jan. 2, 57 percent of Berkeley County residents are fully vaccinated, and 59 percent of residents are fully vaccinated in Dorchester County.
DHEC reports close to 13,000 deaths related to COVID-19 since the virus began to play out in early 2020.
The Post and Courier reported earlier this month that more than one-quarter of people being tested for COVID-19 are currently testing positive.
Berkeley County, in conjunction with Roper St. Francis Healthcare, DHEC and the town of Moncks Corner, have set up a free testing site for area residents at the Moncks Corner Recreational Complex, located at 418 E. Main St. To be tested, residents must schedule an appointment by visiting https://honumg.info/MCRC. The site is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.
Other testing sites have been set up in pharmacies and other locations throughout Dorchester and Berkeley counties. Go to scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-testing-locations to see a list of testing sites or to make an appointment.
Public health officials have said so far, the omicron variant has not resulted in as many hospitalizations as previous variants, and the state's health care system is not currently as strained as it was during the height of the delta variant surge last year.