South Carolina has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases this month as tougher variants spread and more people mingle without protection, experts say.
COVID cases are up 66.9% this month compared to the same period in April, data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control shows. According to DHEC, COVID cases have increased the last three weeks, including 4,458 cases in the first week of May, compared to 3,063 the week before and 2,210 three weeks ago.
Dr. Helmut Albrecht, medical director for infectious disease research and policy at Prisma Health in Columbia, said anyone infected with the latest COVID-19 variants floating around, such as Omicron, can expect to see symptoms within three to four days.
Albrecht said the variants have been a bit more resistant to immune systems and vaccines and as such, have helped drive the recent rise in cases. Albrecht added that the problem is compounded by far fewer people using protection like masks.
“That’s usually what happens, the variants are a little more infectious,” Albrecht said. “And people are getting out and not doing anything else … masks are not prevalent anymore … everybody is sort of over it and more people are taking more risks nowadays.”
As a result, Prisma has seen an uptick in cases in Columbia just like the rest of the state, Albrecht said. Still, the jump in cases has not become something to worry about yet.
“For weeks it was five cases or so, now it’s 10-ish or so, nothing like what we had at the peak,” Albrecht said of the pandemic. “We’ve seen an increase, but it’s from very low to just low.”
And he said he doesn’t expect cases to rise this summer to more worrying levels either. There are now too many people vaccinated and others who have been exposed and recovered for the current variants to cause a serious outbreak like the early days of the pandemic.
“You’ll see some local outbreaks and event-associated outbreaks, but you will not see any big outbreaks — unless we get a variant that’s much dramatically different,” Albrecht said.
However, Albrecht recommends residents get tested if they start showing signs of COVID-19 and to quarantine themselves if they get a positive test or wear a mask if they must go out in public. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 should still be a goal, given that some people are far more vulnerable to it than others, such as older adults and those with severe underlying medical conditions like heart and lung disease or diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
COVID-19 symptoms include:
Fever or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting