CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials with the Medical University of South Carolina said the state is in a holding pattern when it comes to COVID-19 cases while other states are seeing much bigger increases.
On Wednesday, MUSC officials said the latest information shows that the COVID case rates are down another 9% in the Tri-County area this week.
Although, doctors said that this is no time for people to let down their guard down citing increases in the Upstate.
“What’s worrying is when you look beyond the Charleston area, there are really substantial increases in the Upstate,” said MUSC Dr. Michael Sweat who leads the hospital’s COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project. “It’s all around Greenville, Anderson, Spartanburg, Pickens — every county around them is seeing increases. That’s driving up the state numbers. There was a 3% increase in cases over the past week in the state.”
Sweat said other states are seeing much bigger increases with Michigan seeing a 52% increase in cases this past week.
“Connecticut had a 44% increase, New Jersey an 11% increase and it’s going up in New York too,” Sweat said. “And they’re at a high number. Much higher than our rates, but it’s taken away the hope that a magic thing happened.”
MUSC officials said the good news is that more people are getting vaccinated every day, and the state has just opened vaccinations to anyone 16 and older. According to Sweat, a conservative estimate of the immunity level in the Tri-county area is at about 40%, while statewide immunity levels are at about 45%.
Sweat said he was concerned about a few things that may help COVID-19 make a comeback with the first being variants. MUSC has reported variants in samples taken earlier this month. Sweat said he is especially concerned about a variant first spotted in the United Kingdom.
“That’s the one we’re seeing in almost 20 or 30% of our cases in South Carolina now. And it’s 50% more transmissible,” he said. “In Europe, they’re having a major outbreak and they really attribute it to that variant.”
Sweat cited another concern of vaccine hesitancy. According to a survey conducted in the Charleston area, 30% of people who responded were not sure if they will get vaccinate or already know they don’t want to.
Lastly, Sweat said he worried about caution fatigue where people are sick of worrying about getting sick.
“I don’t think they’re being as vigilant,” he said. “Right now, 60% of people in the Tri-county area are unvaccinated or haven’t had COVID, putting them at risk. You know how this virus works. Once it gets into the right network, it can really fly.”