CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The nation’s top health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have announced the more contagious variant of COVID-19 from the United Kingdom is now the most common strain in the United States.
“No big surprise,” MUSC’s Dr. Scott Curry said. “We’ve been predicting this would occur since at least December, definitely January, and it’s happening here in South Carolina as well.”
The UK variant is particularly concerning because it’s been shown to be more transmissible among young people, most of whom have just become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in recent weeks in the Palmetto State.
“Lots of people will compare this to say 1917 and the Spanish flu, but this is a very different pandemic,” Trident Medical Center’s Dr. Kenneth Perry said. “The world is just so much smaller in the sense that something that feels like it’s on the other side of the world can be in our back yard within just a few days.”
Some Lowcountry doctors said the announcement has them worried as vaccine rates overall are still far behind what are needed to achieve herd immunity.
“How we need to get ahead of this is get everyone either vaccinated and allow for this entire pandemic to fizzle out as quickly as possible,” Perry said. “What we don’t want to have happen is have a strain somewhere else in the world that is not as easily covered by these vaccines or is more easily passed.”
Meanwhile, others are concerned the country and the state could experience a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections with many people traveling for spring break and gathering in large groups.
“I would be shocked if it doesn’t happen to be honest,” Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s Dr. Valerie Scott said. “Obviously I don’t work for the CDC, but I look back over time and after every opportunity for people to mingle, be with family, etc, we’ve had a bump. Maybe the wave won’t be up to the 2000s, but I suspect we are going to see an increase in incidents.”
For now, health experts urge people to remain vigilant in wearing masks and practicing social distancing.