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Georgia, South Carolina continue to set COVID records

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 6:27 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The latest COVID surge is pushing Georgia and South Carolina past new milestones as health care providers race to keep pace with case numbers and the need for testing.

With demand for COVID-19 testing at an all-time high in the Peach State, local testing and prompt care sites were packed on Tuesday, and cars were still showing up when we checked.

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The flood — fueled by the ultra-contagious omicron variant of coronavirus — pushed University Hospital to make some changes.

Its prompt care locations at Furys Ferry, Grovetown and Georgia Avenue in North Augusta closed temporarily to consolidate staff at other locations, including Evans, Butler Creek, Sweetwater in North Augusta and Silver Bluff in Aiken.

A day after its system was overwhelmed by the rapidly climbing deluge of data, the Georgia Department of Public Health released its latest COVID-19 numbers: 55,973 new cases since Friday, 35 deaths and 965 hospitalizations. Currently, 39.9% people testing for COVID in Georgia are turning out to be positive.

COVID testing is happening at a record pace in the Peach State, with the seven-day average at just more than 49,000.

Meanwhile, South Carolina health officials said Tuesday the Palmetto State on New Year’s Day surpassed 1 million total COVID-19 cases. That included back-to-back days of record-breaking new COVID-19 cases: 10,000 each on Saturday and Sunday.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported a total of 50,653 cases for the previous week – the highest weekly total of the entire pandemic.

“In less than two years, COVID-19 has infected over 1,000,000 of our citizens and impacted the lives of all of us,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC director. “This milestone is another reminder that COVID-19 has caused one of the most severe pandemics our nation and state has ever seen, and with the omicron variant, we unfortunately are seeing record numbers of cases.

“COVID-19 is here to stay, but working together we can control it and limit its impact on our lives.”

He urged vaccination and booster shots, wearing masks and social distancing when appropriate, and seeking testing/treatment when needed.

DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said she would have never dreamed this would happen when she heard of an outbreak of cases in Wuhan, China two years ago

“Over 1 million people have been infected, and that’s a fifth of the population in South Carolina, and all those are people’s loved ones and thankfully the vast majority did not die. The vast majority probably did not have severe, lasting effects, but for those who did and their family members and friends … that is life-changing,” Traxler said.

Traxler said her team is aware of the long lines people are waiting in for a test, the lack of availability of rapid tests, and knows some people are waiting more than five days for test results.

“We hear them, we recognize and share some of those frustrations,” she said.

She said her team is focused on fixing some of these issues.

“We are adding testers at our sites that currently exist to increase the throughput, we are also adding sites and new testing vendors, and we are also in the process of purchasing about half a million rapid-antigen tests for at-home use,” she said.

She does not think the lines will stay this long at some testing sites forever.

She said the message is the same whether the peak of this wave is upon us or weeks away: testing is important and vaccines save lives.

“COVID-19 is not behind us,” she said, “And should energize us further to take the actions needed to stop the spread of this virus.”

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