MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The Biden Administration announced a 1.7 billion dollar investment to fight COVID-19 variants after the CDC said it’s seeing an increase in cases across the country.
“CDC data show that the B.1.1.7 variant, the variant originally identified in the united kingdom represents 44 percent of the virus circulating during the week of march 27th. The prevalence of b.1.17 since that time is certainly higher,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.
Dr. Brannon Traxler, the Director of Public Health for DHEC, said she also believes the B.1.1.7 variant is the, “more common or the most common of the variants that we are seeing in the state right now.”
According to DHEC, the Upstate has 47 cases of the United Kingdom B.1.1.7 variant, Midlands 45, Pee Dee 60, and Lowcountry 70.
According to DHEC, the Upstate has 4 cases of the South Africa B.1.351 variant, Midlands 18, Pee Dee 32, and Lowcountry 32.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky said one of the reasons for the increase is the, “result of relaxed prevention efforts in states across the country such as relaxed mask mandates, or loosened restrictions on indoor restaurants on seating.”
Currently, South Carolina has no mask mandate or restrictions on restaurant capacity.
Dr. Walensky said another reason for the uptick in cases is because variants are highly contagious and transmissible.
“More than 50 to 70 percent more transmissible which makes the race to stop the transmission even more challenging and threatens to overwhelm our healthcare system again in parts of this country,” Dr. Walensky said.
That’s why Dr. Walensky said the Biden administration is investing 1.7 billion dollars to help track and identify variants. “The emergence of variants underscores the critical need for rapid and ongoing genomic surveillance.”
Dr. Walensky added that, “CDC has been acting on multiple fronts to increase our sequencing efforts in the United States to detect variants of the virus that cause covid-19.”
Local hospitals and providers say they’re tracking findings as well and reporting to DHEC. Dr. Paul Richardson, the Chief Medical Officer for Conway Medical Center said to keep variants from spreading everyone should still wear a mask, social distance and get the vaccine if you can.
“That is our best treatment strategy, the best treatment strategy is to get as many people vaccinated as possible and get to that level of what I call herd immunity,” Dr. Richardson said.
To find a COVID vaccination location near you, go to DHEC’s vaccine locator here. You can also call 1-866-365-8110 for help with COVID-19 vaccine questions and to set up an appointment.