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South Carolina COVID-19 cases rising, health officials blame Delta variant, stagnant vaccinations

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 8:03 PM EDT
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YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - While the vaccination rates in South Carolina are staying stagnant, COVID-19 cases are back on the rise.

The state’s director of public health says the Palmetto state has seen a 58 percent increase in the number of cases in one week. She says the state just reached its 600,000th case just this week and surpassed it already.

Health experts in South Carolina are concerned that more people aren’t getting vaccinated.

It is all about the Delta variant. Public health leaders are so nervous about this variant they say they are doubling down on pushing the vaccine because of how important it is.

State Health Director Brannon Traxler says unvaccinated people are fueling the pandemic, especially younger people. 20- to 24-year-olds have the lowest vaccination rates compared to all other age groups. This includes South Carolinians 12 and older, who just got access to the vaccines.

She warns the Delta variant is dangerous even for younger people and those with only one shot. Traxler says almost all the people sick in the hospital right now are unvaccinated. She hopes these warnings will help people realize that getting vaccinated is extremely important.

”South Carolinians don’t have to die and be hospitalized from this disease,” says Traxler. “You can protect yourself and others.”

The Delta variant is the most dominant strain of the coronavirus in the U.S. According to the CDC, from June 20th to July 3rd, it was responsible for more than 57 percent of new cases.

The spread of the variant is especially concerning as South Carolina continues to fall behind the national pace in vaccinations.

Right now, 43.5 percent of South Carolinians are fully vaccinated. That compares to 48 percent nationwide. That number causes fear in the minds of people who have already had COVID.

”It’s terrifying?” says Traci Patterson, a COVID long-hauler.

A short year ago, Patterson contracted the coronavirus, but as a COVID-19 long-hauler, the year has been anything but short.

”To this day it’s still scary for me because I just don’t know what the long-term effects are going to be,” says Patterson.

Patterson’s body aches and low-grade fever are long gone, but her sense of taste and smell are still off. She also developed a serious thyroid disease she is still working through.

”I’m vaccinated now and I still don’t leave my bubble. I’m ready for COVID to be over,” says Patterson.

One of the state’s top docs, Dr. Brannon Traxler, says that is not happening any time soon with the surging Delta variant.

”Unvaccinated people are fueling the pandemic,” says Traxler.

Traxler says the new variant has caused case numbers to rise while vaccine numbers have stayed stagnant and it is not just affecting unvaccinated people. Just one dose is only 33 percent effective against the delta strain according to recent studies. Traxler says that goes up 88 percent with two doses.

”Our current situation is tipping in the wrong direction,” says Traxler. “We can’t let the virus and its variants grow stronger. Getting vaccinated is how we win.”

Patterson is hoping to get to that point quickly because knowing what she has been through, she says the possibility of getting the delta variant leaves her speechless.

”Thinking that there’s something worse than I’ve been dealing with…” says Patterson.

Another tell-tale sign we are not through with COVID-19 yet is hospitalizations. Traxler says those went up about 39 percent in just one week and most of the people who are in the hospital, have not been vaccinated.

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