Courtesy MUSC

South Carolina public health officials fended off criticism from lawmakers that the state’s vaccine doses are not being administered fast enough, all while nearly one-third of COVID-19 tests taken came back positive — some of the highest figures so far.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 2,323 new cases, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in South Carolina to 280,024.

With 7,391 tests reported statewide, the percent positive rate reached 31.4%.

Of the 112,125 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines received, state officials report 35,158 have been administered thus far.

DHEC said the South Carolina health community has administered 31% of doses received, significantly higher than the national average of 19% and nearly twice as much as other states in the Southeast.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers told The Post and Courier they were frustrated with the speed at which vaccines were being given to hospital workers and those in urgent need. Some objections boiled down to speed, some to transparency.

Joining Gov. Henry McMaster and a chorus of other elected leaders, state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell urged South Carolinians to continue taking precautions and avoid New Year’s Eve gatherings this year.

“I join public health officials across the country and world in warning that New Year’s Eve celebrations could prove to be devastating,” she said. “The safest way to celebrate, as it has been throughout this holiday season, is to stay home.”