All but 2 S.C. counties see high to medium levels of COVID-19

A post-holiday rise in COVID-19 cases has state health officials hoping you didn’t throw your face masks away.
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 3:24 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2023 at 12:12 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A post-holiday rise in COVID-19 cases has state health officials hoping you didn’t throw your face masks away.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Community Levels Map currently shows 21 counties in red, meaning high levels of COVID-19; and another 23 in yellow, an indication of a medium level of COVID-19 cases. That leaves only two of the state’s 46 counties, Aiken and Barnwell Counties, in green with low levels.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control continues to track levels of COVID-19 by using the CDC’s map.

After the holidays, COVID-19 cases have been on the rise. During the week of Oct. 29, DHEC reported 3,459 cases, compared to the most recent week ending on Dec. 31, which listed 10,481 cases.

With a 25% positivity increase rate in the last week, Dr. Jonathan Knoche, one of DHEC’s Medical Consultants, says everyone needs to make wise, more informed decisions about what’s going on around them.

“I understand people are tired of hearing about COVID-19 and vaccines; it gets to be a little bit exhausting, I get that. But we also have to be wise about what’s going on in our community,” Knoche says. “When we see numbers coming up, small things that we can do to protect ourselves go a long way. I think wearing this mask is just one of those things right now.”

The Medical University of South Carolina’s Dr. Michael Sweat, says MUSC hospitals in Charleston have seen 4% of all hospital beds in the area occupied by people with COVID-19 in the past week. He says that waves of the virus tend to go up before going down again.

“I think we don’t and we’re not going to go back to sort of the mindset of a lockdown, but what is strategic is to turn it on and off when numbers get high, and the numbers are high,” Sweat says. “It’s time to maybe turn on your precautions for a while, it won’t last forever.”

To prevent the virus from spreading, he adds the most immediate things such as avoiding crowded indoor places and creating ventilation inside indoor spaces can help, but vaccinations are the most effective.

Over 70% of the population in South Carolina has at least received their first dose of the vaccine, but the newest variant, XBB 1.5, spreads more easily, resulting in more people getting infected.

For counties displayed in red on the CDC map with high levels of infection, DHEC recommends masking for everyone in indoor settings, including schools and workplaces. For those in yellow, with medium levels of infection, DHEC says people who are at higher risk or those who are around immunocompromised individuals are encouraged to mask up, while it is optional for others.

The red counties are Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Colleton, Dorchester, Fairfield, Georgetown, Greenville, Horry, Kershaw, Laurens, Lee, Lexington, Marlboro, Newberry, Pickens, Richland, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union, and Williamsburg.

The yellow counties are Abbeville, Allendale, Anderson, Bamberg, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Edgefield, Florence, Greenwood, Hampton, Jasper, Lancaster, Marion, McCormick, Oconee, Orangeburg, Saluda, and York.

For Aiken and Barnwell Counties, shown in green, masking is not needed in most settings but remains optional, DHEC says.

If you are looking for a wellness check or to receive an immunization, Walmart South Carolina is hosting Walmart Wellness Day on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.