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DHEC says SC no longer in downward trend of COVID-19 cases; touts vaccine as a way out

Official: More than 90% of fed workers got shots by deadline (copy)

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Las Vegas. File/John Locher/AP

According to state health officials, South Carolina saw 10 consecutive weeks of declining COVID-19 case numbers beginning Sept. 4. The agency said today that that trend no longer exists due to numerous weeks of increasing COVID-19 cases throughout November.

"I don't want to hit the panic button," said Dr. Brannon Traxler, director of public health for the Department of Health and Environmental Control in a recent media briefing.  "But we are strongly encouraging all South Carolinians to continue the safety protocols that helped us drive these numbers back down. This is especially important as millions of us around the state gather with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving."

The agency is also standing beside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in recommending booster shots to adults ages 18 and up.

"This updated recommendation now calls for all adults, ages 18 and up who received any of the three brands as an initial series to be eligible to get a booster shot," said Traxler. "

Data published by the state health agency on Nov. 24 shows several counties across the state reported no COVID activity. Meanwhile, Greenville County continues to lead the state in terms of highest daily case counts. 

The agency will not release COVID-19 data Thanksgiving Day through Nov. 28. Data will be released on Nov. 29 and include five days’ worth of information.

Statewide numbers

New cases reported: 374 confirmed, 206 probable.

Total cases in S.C.: 732,417 confirmed, 182,529 probable.

Percent positive: 6.6 percent.

New deaths reported: 16 confirmed, three probable.

Total deaths in S.C.: 12,245 confirmed, 1,909 probable. 

Percent of ICU beds filled (with COVID-19 and other patients): 73.54 percent.

S.C. residents vaccinated

In South Carolina, 57.5 percent of people who are eligible for the vaccine have received at least one dose, and 49.8 percent of eligible residents have completed vaccination.

This number reflects the number of newly eligible residents in South Carolina, including young children. The latest data from the state health agency shows 6 percent of children ages 5-11 have at least one vaccine dose. 

Hardest-hit areas

On Nov. 24, Greenville (41), York (40) and Greenwood (35) counties saw the highest totals of newly confirmed cases.

What about tri-county?

Charleston County had 20 new cases on Nov. 24, while Berkeley had nine and Dorchester had eight.

Deaths

The state health agency releases county-level data regarding COVID-19 deaths and the ages of those who have died from the virus on Tuesdays. According to the latest data, at least 77 people in South Carolina died from the virus Nov. 14-20, and their ages ranged from young adult (18-34) to elderly (65 and older).

Greenville County recorded 22 COVID deaths that week — the highest number of any county in the state. Health officials have reported the vast majority of patients who are dying from the coronavirus at this stage of the pandemic are unvaccinated.

Hospitalizations

Of the 426 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Nov. 24, 123 were in the ICU and 77 were using ventilators. 

Variants of concern

DHEC sequences a small, random sample of positive COVID-19 cases each week to determine which variants of concern (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) are circulating in the state. According to the latest data published by the agency on Nov. 18, 83.3 percent of the variants tested in all regions of the state were identified as the delta variant, the dominant strain in South Carolina.

What do experts say?

COVID-19 has killed more people this year than in 2020, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. USA Today reports that the virus has killed approximately 770,000 in this country since the start of the pandemic, and roughly 15,000 more people have died this year compared to last. 

Federal and state health data shows the vast majority of people who have died here in South Carolina, and across the country, have not been fully vaccinated. 

Vaccine clinics can be found at vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov. Booster shots are also available at these clinics. 

The best of health, hospital and science coverage in South Carolina, delivered to your inbox weekly.


Follow Lauren Sausser on Twitter @laurenmsausser. 

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