Although the nation’s Covid-19 pandemic emergency expired May 11, local public health officials say Charlestonians should be mindful as summer begins that transmission is expected to rise.
“Right now the key public health message for the community is it’s looking like we’re having another wave potentially coming like we have had every summer for the past three and a half years,” said Dr. Michael Sweat, director of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Center for Global Health.
State health officials encourage residents to refer to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Covid-19 by county webpage and track hospital admission levels to guide prevention decisions and track the severity of Covid-19.
CDC reports show the hospital admission level of the Covid-19 virus has remained low in the Charleston area. Fourteen people died statewide from Covid in the week ending May 20, according to a May 27 DHEC report.
“People who are older, immunocompromised or have low risk-tolerance — pay attention, because you don’t want to catch this,” Sweat told the Charleston City Paper.
He said about 1,000 people in the nation are dying from Covid on a weekly basis, and the majority are individuals older than the age of 65.
“That’s still significant,” he said. “That’s definitely something to be concerned about.”
He said wearing a mask in crowded spaces or while traveling is a simple yet effective way to protect yourself if you or your loved one is a higher-risk individual.
The U.S. population has elevated immunity due to people having been previously infected by Covid-19 at least once, he said, plus the various vaccination campaigns have “started to pay off” in that people are getting less sick if they do contract the virus.
“For a younger, healthier person, the risk of a serious case is quite low, and hospitalizations are way down. We’re seeing record-low hospitalizations.”
Every year, the seasonality of Covid is becoming more apparent, Sweat said. There is a substantial winter wave and a substantial mid- to late-summer waver in the Southeast region.
“Numbers tend to be the lowest in March, April, May, but then they go up again.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) have stopped requiring weekly case reporting, Sweat said. By the end of June, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) will stop reporting weekly cases as well.
When at-home testing became readily available about a year ago, Sweat said, the value of state and federal case reporting became less representative as more individuals self-tested since results weren’t consistently reported to federal agencies. Therefore DHEC and CDC data became less valuable to gauge transmission rates due to what’s called a data bias, Sweat said.
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