COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina is once again seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases. Now, health leaders are sounding the alarm as hospitals are admitting more COVID-19 patients, too.
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), there were 124 COVID hospitalizations on June 29. As of July 20, there are 297.
"It's disheartening," said Dr. Divya Ahuja, an infectious disease physician with Prisma Health.
He said the recent spike is frustrating because "we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but we are back to square one, because of misinformation.”
Ahuja blames people not getting vaccinated and vaccine misinformation for the increase in cases and hospitalizations.
DHEC says only 44% of South Carolinians are fully vaccinated. Their goal is to reach 70% for herd immunity.
Dr. Ahuja said while at working in a COVID unit these past couple of weeks, all the patients he has seen are unvaccinated. "They are sick, and this time they are not 80 or 85-year-olds that we used to see one year ago."
Lexington Medical Center is reporting the same troubling trend – patients that are being hospitalized for COVID-19 are a lot younger than they were before.
“This is a young person's problem now," Ahuja said. "What we are seeing now is young, relatively healthy people across the state, across the country, with severe illness requiring hospitalization.”
Prisma Health, Lexington Medical Center and MUSC are all reporting an increase in COVID-19 patients. Last week, Lexington Medical Center said they had zero critical care patients. This week they have 11.
During a media call earlier this week, DHEC’s Dr. Brannon Traxler said “this likely is due, as we know from our data, to unvaccinated people getting infected.”
According to DHEC, more than 90% of new cases are people who aren’t vaccinated. The same goes for coronavirus hospitalizations.
Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated and hope to battle vaccine misinformation with education and community outreach.