Photo by Lukas Souza on Unsplash

Staff reports | Health experts and officials believe the worst of Hong Kong’s omicron surge may have passed, with the city announcing Tuesday it would lift the ban on international flights and cut quarantine times for vaccinated residents arriving from overseas in half. 

Looking back over the surge, the death toll per capita in Hong Kong — once far lower than those in the West — has caught up to the rest of the world. Hong Kong’s COVID-19 death rate one month ago was 90 times lower than that of the U.S., but by March 21, the cumulative U.S. toll was three and a half times as high as Hong Kong’s, according to a report by The New York Times.

U.S. scientists are now looking to the Asian city for clues about the future of the pandemic as the country braces for a potential new wave of COVID-19. The first takeaway of note: vaccinating as many older people as possible should be the top priority, experts say. Many older people in Hong Kong fell victim to misinformation, according to reports, resulting in less than a quarter of the population over age 80 receiving at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine. 

Scientists do not expect the U.S. to face as serious a situation as Hong Kong did, however, because many more Americans have already been infected by the highly contagious omicron variant during earlier waves. 

Latest COVID-19 data

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) transitioned to weekly reporting of new COVID data this week, with Tuesday’s update being the most recent of reports including data taken from March 13-19.

South Carolina health officials on Tuesday reported 1,014 total new cases of COVID-19, with 667 confirmed, and 116 total new deaths, 60 of which were confirmed. As of March 22, 187 COVID-19-positive individuals are hospitalized, and 16 COVID-19-positive individuals are ventilated.

No positivity rate was reported by DHEC.

  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 12+ with at least one vaccine: 66.8%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 12+ who have completed vaccination: 57.7%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 5-11 with at least one vaccine: 19.8%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 5-11 who have completed vaccination: 16%

For more information, visit the S.C. SCDHEC COVID-19 dashboard.