The omicron variant of the coronavirus pandemic pushed the state of South Carolina to a new record for daily cases, according to data released on Friday by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).
The health agency reported 6,317 confirmed cases of the virus and another 2,563 probable cases for this Wednesday (December 29, 2021) – shattering the record of 5,712 confirmed cases and 1,974 probable cases set back on January 6, 2021.
The moving seven-day average of cases spiked to 4,038 – the highest level recorded since late September when the delta surge of this virus was on the wane. The percentage of positive tests also spiked to 25.6 – well above the 9.5 percent average since Covid-19 data first began to be collected on the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China in the fall of 2019.
Case counts aren’t the only metric on the move. A key transmission indicator has also spiked in recent days – signaling that case counts will likely remain elevated for the foreseeable future.
“Rt” (or “R naught”) is Covid-19’s “reproduction rate” – or the average number of people we can expect to be infected by someone who is Covid-19 positive.
“When Rt is above 1, we expect cases to increase in the near future,” Yale researchers tracking this key metric noted. “When Rt is below one, we expect cases to decrease in the near future.”
This key leading indicator had plunged all the way to 0.55 prior to omicron’s emergence, but recent days has seen a sharp reversal. As of this writing, Rt in South Carolina stands at 1.02. That is well below the delta peak of 1.67 – reached between July 17-20, 2021 – but the number is clearly on the move.
Researchers warned there would be “extreme fluctuations” in this data over the holidays as “key parameters of the omicron variant remain highly uncertain.”
Are rising cases cause for alarm? Or … as irony would have it, cause for optimism?
I addressed this question in a recent post on the “fear porn” promulgated by the mainstream media in the wake of omicron. The gist of that story? That the early science on the variant indicated it was a far less severe strain of Covid-19 than delta, meaning we could be nearing the end of the viral life cycle.
Variants of viruses spread faster but do far less damage as time elapses owing to the elevated immunity of the population – causing them to essentially flame out.
Scientists have even argued that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should stop using daily case counts as its basis for recommending mask mandates and other overbearing federal diktats.
“We have reached a point in the pandemic where policy should no longer be based around the idea that we cannot resume normal life until case numbers are below a particular (arbitrary) level,” Monica Gandhi and Leslie Bienin wrote earlier this month for Time magazine.
The two researchers added that guidelines based on case numbers “were set before vaccination, and have not been adjusted accordingly, even though a large proportion of cases, in part due to the growing proportion of cases that are breakthrough cases, are now mild.”
In South Carolina hospitalizations are climbing as omicron spreads, however they remain well below both the delta and “dark winter” peaks. According to SCDHEC, as of yesterday (December 30, 2021) 921 Covid-19 positive patients were hospitalized – a 54.5 percent uptick from the previous week. Of those 199 were in intensive care units (up 19.2 percent from the previous week) and 89 were ventilated (up 25.4 percent from the previous week).
By comparison, a total of 2,615 Covid-19 positive patients were hospitalized on September 13 – the peak influx of the delta variant. Meanwhile, 2,290 Covid-19 positive patients were hospitalized on January 13 at the apex of the “dark winter” surge.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that New York Giants’ 1942 All Star Game lid pictured above).
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