In keeping with the record surge reported last week, coronavirus cases in South Carolina exploded over the New Year’s Day weekend – with state health officials reporting staggering increases over the first four days of January thanks to the emergence of the highly transmissible omicron variant of the virus.
According to data released on Tuesday by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), a record 10,629 cases (6,974 confirmed, 3,655 probable) were reported on New Year’s Day – with a 28.2 percent positive rate. The following day – January 2, 2022 – another 10,543 cases were reported (7,985 confirmed, 2,558 probable) with a 24.5 percent positive rate.
Yesterday (January 3, 2022), SCDHEC reported another 8,331 new cases (6,600 confirmed, 1,731 probable) with a percent positive rate of 26.9 percent.
Another 5,491 cases (4,568 confirmed, 923 probable) were reported today with a percent positive reading of 27.9 percent – bringing the four-day total for 2022 to 34,994.
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The four-day data dump – released by the agency on Tuesday afternoon – marked the biggest surge in viral activity since SCDHEC first began tracking this virus, which originated in Wuhan, China in the fall of 2019. Prior to this week, the record number of daily cases (confirmed and probable) was 7,686 – set on January 6, 2021.
The spike also pushed the total number of Covid-19 cases in the Palmetto State past the one million mark.
“In less than two years, COVID-19 has infected over 1,000,000 of our citizens and impacted the lives of all of us,” SCDHEC director Edward Simmer said in a statement. “This milestone is another reminder that COVID-19 has caused one of the most severe pandemics our nation and state has ever seen, and with the Omicron variant, we unfortunately are seeing record numbers of cases.
The surging cases also reenergized the ongoing debate over how best to handle Covid-19 – with some yearning for a return to authoritarian mandates and others insisting the rapid spread of the virus is a sign that it is weakening.
In addition to soaring cases, 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 have seen a sharp reversal. As of midday Tuesday (January 4, 2022), Rt had climbed all the way to 2.79 – a new record.
What has the impact of this case spike been on the Palmetto State’s hospitalization situation?
As of Monday, a total of 1,288 Covid-19 positive patients were hospitalized – a 67.1 percent uptick from the previous week. Of those 265 were in intensive care units (up 47.2 percent from the previous week) and 125 were ventilated (up 52.4 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.
As for fatalities, SCDHEC announced another 35 deaths (and 3 probable deaths) “with” Covid-19 over the past four days – pushing the statewide death toll to 14,674 since the agency began tracking the pandemic last March. Worth noting, 61.5 percent of those fatalities involved patients with one or more attendant co-morbidities – raising questions as to what extent the virus is responsible for causing these deaths.
According to SCDHEC, 59 percent of South Carolinians who have died “with” Covid-19 were 71 years of age or older. Conversely, only 2.9 percent of victims were under the age of 40.
While the median age of Covid-19 deaths certainly trended lower during the delta surge, the fact remains that if you are younger and in relatively good health, in the overwhelming majority of cases this virus is not a serious threat to you.
Accordingly, we must allow the actual science surrounding this virus to guide us, not the panic ginned up by the corporate media (or the draconian overreactions of our politicians).
“We should all be smart and be safe, but we cannot allow Covid-19 fear to once again impose ‘cures’ on our society that are worse than the disease,” I wrote recently.
Does part of being “smart and safe” mean getting vaccinated (as 56.3 percent of South Carolinians over the age of twelve have already done)?
I believe so, yes … which is why I have already received both of my “jabs” despite having had Covid-19 once (and probably twice). I believe the vaccines are safe and effective, and would encourage anyone who is medically able to get them to do so. However, this personal choice must never be made compulsory – nor should we seek to punish or shame anyone who makes a choice different from our own.
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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