DHEC stresses vaccines as more Delta variant cases confirmed in South Carolina

State - Regional

FILE

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — The total number of confirmed Delta variant COVID-19 cases increased from four to 10 this week in South Carolina, and the Department of Health and Environmental Control continues to stress the importance of getting vaccinated.

During a media briefing on Wednesday, Jonathan Knoche, a public health medical consultant with DHEC, did not identify where the new cases are located. However, he said they are only cases that have been confirmed by the state’s Public Health Laboratory.

DHEC’s COVID-19 dashboard still showed only four Delta variant cases on Wednesday – one in the Lowcountry, one in the Pee Dee and two in the Midlands. The DHEC statistics for all six of the variants currently being tracked showed 1,297 total cases, with 418 in the Lowcountry, 252 in the Pee Dee, 338 in the Midlands and 289 Upstate.

The increase comes as Knoche said several U.S. states with similar vaccination rates to South Carolina’s have begun to see a resurgence of COVID-19 cases fueled by low vaccination rates and highly transmissible Delta variant cases. However, the Moderna, Pfizer and Janssen vaccines are effective against the variants and the rise in cases is because not enough people got vaccinated when they first had the opportunity to do so, he said.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you have much less to worry about,” he said. “We are still tracking and learning more about the Delta variant, but what we know is that, as of today, the Pfizer and Moderna and the Janssen vaccines are effective in lessening the symptoms for those who are exposed to the Delta variant if they do contract the illness.”

Missouri recently saw its seven-day case average more than double in a 30-day period, Knoche said, and state officials identified the Delta variant as the main driver of the resurgence. The state’s vaccination rate is 39 percent, which is only slightly lower than South Carolina’s 42 percent.

Three other states — Arkansas (34%), Nevada (52%) and Wyoming (31%) — are also seeing a “significant” resurgence of cases, Knoche said.

Knoche said it’s also important to remember that the 10 Delta variant cases in South Carolina are only those that have been confirmed by whole genome sequencing at the state’s Public Health Laboratory. The numbers don’t reflect testing done at private labs, he said.

Currently, 78% of samples tested at the Public Health Laboratory have shown a “known variant of concern,” Knoche said. Delta variant cases make up about 5.2% of that total, he said.

To keep the rate of variant cases in South Carolina from reaching levels being seen in other states, Knoche stressed the importance of getting vaccinated. While no vaccine will keep people from being exposed to the virus, they will reduce symptoms if you contract it, he said.

Another reason to get vaccinated is to protect other people, he said.

“We need to protect our children, especially those who are younger than 12 and can’t get the vaccines,” Knoche said. “If we want to return to normal, if we want our students and their dedicated teachers to have a normal school year where they can catch up on what was lost last year, then we all need to do our part by getting vaccinated.”

Getting vaccinated as soon as possible is also important, he said. Teachers, faculty and young people should get their shots now, so they have enough time to get the full benefit of the vaccine before schools reopen in the fall, he said.

“Please don’t wait,” Knoche said. “Get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

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