SC health expert: ‘I’m really nervous about another surge’

Updated: Mar. 17, 2021 at 12:44 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A top official from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says she worries South Carolinians are rushing to return to normal despite the fact that fewer than 15% of residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly says there is good news in South Carolina’s fight against COVID-19.

“We’ve been going in the right direction for many weeks now, the decrease in deaths, hospitalizations and cases,” she says.

But as the weather warms up, she is seeing more people go out and plan big gatherings for the Easter holiday, all indications they are lowering their guard against the coronavirus.

“We’ve got Easter holidays coming up family gatherings, as you pointed out springtime is here, and people are more likely to go on vacations, spring break, get together, go to the beach, go to places where they like to go out, gather indoors, and I’m really worried about a surge,” she says.

Kelly says the warning light is blinking just across the pond.

“I’m really worried about a surge we’ve seen a surge in Europe,” Kelly said. “Part of that is related to new variants circulating the new variants are risky because they are more contagious, they spread more easily.”

More tools to fight the virus, she says, are helping. She said she heard from one clinic giving the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine that people were driving for two hours to get to those clinics.

People who are hesitant to get the vaccine are more likely to prefer the single-dose shot, she says. But overall, vaccine hesitancy is going down. National trends are matching what Kelly says she’s seeing in South Carolina.

“Now with over 100 million people vaccinated across the United States and people are finally realizing it is safe, the concerns they had about, that it had not been tested on enough people are resolved,” Kelly said.

One group she says is more vaccine hesitant than others is young people, who are believed to be at less risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Because of that, she says, they don’t think they need the shot.

But she says even asymptomatic people can have long-lasting symptoms of the virus like fatigue and brain fog.

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