Surge expected as students head back class

Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 4:24 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2022 at 7:54 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As Covid cases hit record highs, doctors warn of an even larger surge as students in Charleston County return to school tomorrow.

Dr. Robert Oliverio with Roper St. Francis Healthcare says he expects the numbers to go up.

“No doubt that’s going to happen. You know, from December 21 to now, the seven-day average of cases has increased tenfold,” Oliverio said. “That’s without kids going to school. Kids are the least vaccinated group within the population. I expect if you are going to put a bunch of kids together with a highly contagious variant, there will be no doubt that there will be an increase in cases.”

The district has already taken steps to mitigate the spread of covid by reinstituting policy ADD – mandatory masking. That decision was made before the students went on break but will be enforced starting tomorrow.

“Other than that, I mean, everything else that we have had in place to keep our staff as safe possible is still in place,” said Andy Pruitt, director of communications at CCSD. “Obviously we’ll still continue to do contact tracing. It’s important that we make sure that if someone has reported positive that they’re not in school for that amount of time and we do the contact trace investigation.”

Dozens of people showed up at Laing Middle School Monday afternoon where the district offered free covid testing for students and staff ahead of the return from holiday break. Through a grant and partnership with DHEC, CCSD has been offering testing every day, except Sunday, at seven locations since Oct. 6.

You can find testing times and locations here.

“We made sure that we offered those opportunities before people returned to school and we will continue to look at any way possible to make sure that we can provide as much testing as possible for our students and staff,” Pruitt said. “Right now with vaccines our focus is making sure we finish up with the vaccine clinics that we offering for our five- to 11-year-old students.”

As of Monday, students 12 years old and up now have the ability to get a boosters. Oliverio says a booster is great, but there’s still a large segment of the population that still needs a first shot.

“Really, what I’d love to be able to see is, 80% of five- to 11-year-olds vaccinated. You know, I would love to see 80% of everybody vaccinated. That would be great,” Oliverio said. “Those people who’ve already been vaccinated, they will get it. They’re going to get their booster. I’m really concerned about the folks who just can’t get to it or haven’t gotten to it.”

According to DHEC just 12% of kids between five and 11 have received at least one dose of a covid vaccine.

The CDC recently revised its quarantine time guidance to just five days. Pruitt says, he expects the district will adopt those guidelines as well.

“We are in the process of updating our safe return plan and to make sure it aligns with what DHEC has now provided. I think that was very important to make sure that our state agency had gone along with what the CDC was recommending,” Pruitt said, adding he expects the update to happen in the next 24 hours.

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