COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s top infectious disease expert said the state’s spike in COVID-19 cases is overwhelming the ability of health workers to track infected people.
Contact tracing is a critical part of slowing the virus and quickly isolating people who may be infected, so the inability to investigate cases could mean the virus keeps spreading quickly, state Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said Wednesday.
South Carolina has reported more than 1,000 newly diagnosed cases in 11 of the past 13 days. At that level, contact tracing is virtually impossible, Bell said.
The spike started after the Memorial Day weekend, and if people act irresponsibly and don’t social distance and wear masks while celebrating Independence Day, South Carolina will face a crisis, Bell said.
“If we don’t take that action now, if we don’t social distance, if we don’t wear our masks, we are going to see more of our friends, our family members, our loved ones who will continue to become ill, who will be hospitalized — and many will die,” Bell said.
South Carolina set a record reporting 24 deaths Wednesday. The state had 1,160 people hospitalized Wednesday with COVID-19, the most since the pandemic began, health officials said.