MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The CDC is warning the new COVID-19 variants could lead to another rapid rise in cases.

South Carolina’s daily COVID-19 case rate continues to fall, as it’s been cut by more than half in the last month. That seven-day rate is at the lowest point since the beginning of December, according to data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

Experts warn, however, that the battle against the virus is not over because of the emergence of variants.

“We have not done a great job up to this point of sequencing,” said Gigi Gronvall, an immunologist at Johns Hopkins University.

Testing and vaccinations have been two of the biggest strategies in the fight against coronavirus, but a third idea is getting more focus: genetic sequencing. That’s the process used to see if a sample of the COVID-19 virus is one of its mutated strains.

Experts say many viral changes don’t mean much, but some can make a virus more infectious.

“We end up being more concerned about some variants, but it’s really important to keep track of all the changes that are accumulating in the virus because we never know when an important mutation will occur,” said Andy Pekosz, a virologist at Johns Hopkins.

The most widely known COVID-19 variants were first found in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. North and South Carolina have confirmed cases of the UK and South African ones. As of Tuesday, North Carolina reported 23 cases of the UK one to the CDC, but 14 more were counted late Thursday night, bringing the total to 37.

“Every time somebody is infected with the virus, it’s an opportunity for more mutations to happen, so we need to get community transmission down,” Gronvall said.

That’s why the CDC has announced a $200 million investment towards genetic sequencing to track many more samples for the variants that spread more easily.

“In the next few weeks, we’ll have a much better idea of what variants are actually out there,” said Gronvall. “I think it’s safe to assume it’s a lot more than what’s been reported.”

The Johns Hopkins researchers also say the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do seem to be providing protection against the new COVID-19 variants.