MUSC: Changing COVID numbers, statistics could signal hope

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 1:26 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 5:58 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Medical University of South Carolina says recent metrics could be a sign the tide is changing in the battle against COVID-19 and the delta variant.

MUSC says they have been tracking seven metrics when accessing the severity of the COVID pandemic. They say six of them show that the disease is finally tapering after the delta variant’s large impact.

“It’s coming down, so we should feel good about that,” Medical University of South Carolina COVID-19 tracking project leader Michael Sweat said. ”If I had a theme that I wanted to convey, it would be living with uncertainty.”

Sweat is a professor in the College of Medicine at MUSC, but the hospital says he’s affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Medicine and has worked as a research scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The hospital says case numbers dropped 21% to about 5,300 during the week that ended Sept. 14 for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties combined. They say that is compared with about 6,700 the previous week.

Sweat says he hopes the numbers will keep going down, but he worries the current surge will follow a different trajectory.

The drop after last winter’s surge got the Charleston area down to almost no cases at one point this summer, MUSC says.

“In the U.K., they saw a very rapidly evolving epidemic that rapidly de-escalated,” Sweat said. “But as it came about halfway down from the peak, it stalled. And as the weeks progressed, it went back up substantially.”

Comparing the U.K. with South Carolina isn’t apples to apples, Sweat said. “We have a different pattern of vaccination, and we didn’t have a lockdown that got lifted.”

But Sweat said what’s happened in other Southern states in the U.S. also suggests that at least a plateau may lie ahead.

“Looking at states down the road from us, they also had a pretty rapidly escalating epidemic. And then at least in Louisiana, there’s a clear stall happening. It’s flatline with some ups and downs. In Florida, I think you’re also seeing that pattern. And then in Georgia, it maybe looks a little tenuous. They have a little blip that makes me worry,” Sweat said.

It’s not clear what’s driving the pattern, Sweat said. A release from MUSC says the reopening of schools, which happens relatively early in Southern states, or endemic exhaustion could be contributing factors.

“I do think we’ll get more information. It just takes time,” Sweat said. “Things aren’t perfect. But I think one of the hardest things going forward is just trying to cope with all this uncertainty coming along.”

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