South Carolina breaks daily COVID-19 case count at nearly 9,000

COLUMBIA, S.C. — (AP) — South Carolina’s health department reported Friday a record-high number of nearly 9,000 COVID-19 cases in one day.

The record-shattering 8,882 cases confirmed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control comes less than a year after the state marked its previous high of 7,686 cases in early 2021.

“I think January’s going to be a very difficult month for South Carolina,” Department Director Dr. Edward Simmer said during a Friday news conference.

The real number of cases in the state is likely higher, because the state isn’t tracking positive results from rapid at-home tests per federal guidance, Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said.

The health agency reminded people that wearing a mask and getting vaccinated are still the best ways to stay protected against the virus as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads throughout the state. Officials also urged South Carolinians to consider making New Year’s Eve celebrations distanced or virtual instead.

Unlike during last winter’s peak, the state now has ample vaccine supplies: “We have the way out of this crisis,” Simmer said.

About 52% of South Carolinians ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the state health department. That’s below a national average of about 62%, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That data doesn’t include whether people have received their booster shots.

Officials said the agency is also currently working to add more sites, conduct more tests at existing sites and increase the types of tests being offered to address an uptick in demand for testing.

Although the state is seeing the most cases in younger people who are more likely to have less severe symptoms, Simmer reminded people that the omicron variant can still cause severe disease and death. The state has seen significant rises in the number of people hospitalized and on ventilators in the past week.

Hospitals are managing the increase, but the rise in cases has strained staff, Simmer said. Some emergency rooms and urgent cares are already getting overwhelmed, with wait times increasing, he added.

A third of the state’s hospitals reported critical staffing shortages to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday.

(WATCH BELOW: Health leaders in Mecklenburg County say more COVID-19 tests are on the way)