A variant of the coronavirus known to spread more quickly that originated in India is the cause of four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina, though the true count is likely much higher, experts said.

Dr. Brannon Traxler, director of public health at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, said June 16 the health agency has recorded four cases of the Delta variant in the Midlands, Pee Dee and Lowcountry regions.

Those four cases have been found through sequencing of samples not only at DHEC’s labs, but also at a number of private labs and hospitals. 

Only a small portion of people who test positive for COVID-19 receive further testing to see which of the virus’ strains is responsible for the case. Traxler said she couldn’t be sure how many cases have been tested to determine if they are an instance of one of the variants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s modeling predicts about 10 percent of current cases in the United States are the Delta variant. On June 14, the national public health agency named the Delta mutation a “variant of concern.” 


Traxler said although cases of COVID-19 continue to decline in South Carolina, she remains concerned that one or more of these variants could cause another spike. About 40 percent of South Carolinians are fully vaccinated; the vaccines have been proven to be effective even against the new strains.

“We realistically could see a surge in cases after that July 4 holiday,” Traxler said. “An uptick in cases is simply not the direction we need to be going. We need more people to roll up their sleeves.” 

There has not been an uptick in cases following the Memorial Day holiday.

Statewide numbers

New cases reported: 86 confirmed, 67 probable.

Total cases in S.C.: 492,810 confirmed, 102,500 probable.

Percent positive: 2.7 percent.

New deaths reported: 2 confirmed, 1 probable.

Total deaths in S.C.: 8,619 confirmed, 1,167 probable. 

Percent of ICU beds filled: 70 percent.

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S.C. residents vaccinated

DHEC’s vaccine dashboard shows that 46 percent of the state’s residents have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Hardest-hit areas

In the total number of newly confirmed cases, Horry County (11), Richland County (11) and Spartanburg County (10) saw the highest totals. 

What about the tri-county?

Charleston County had three new cases on June 16, while Berkeley County had five and Dorchester County had two.

Deaths

Both of the deaths from COVID-19 confirmed June 16 were people age 35 and 64. 

Hospitalizations

Of the 160 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of June 16, 39 were in the ICU and 25 were using ventilators.


What do experts say?

Traxler also said while it would be nice to know how much of a defense the body mounts after a COVID-19 vaccine, she doesn’t recommend getting antibody testing done after vaccination because the tests may not measure the antibodies that the vaccines are meant to induce. 

“While a positive antibody test result can be used to help identify people who may have had a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, more research is needed in people who have received a COVID-19 vaccination,” according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-607-4312. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.


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