'The trend is up everywhere, just all over the place'

July 15, 2021
Illustration of the coronavirus.
A scientifically accurate atomic model of the coronavirus. Wikimedia Commons

The coronavirus case rate in the Charleston Tri-county area rose for the third week in a row, according to the latest update from the Medical University of South Carolina’s COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project. 

And project leader Michael Sweat, Ph.D., said the Tri-county has plenty of company. “The trend is up everywhere, just all over the place.”

He’s not happy to see that the prediction he made in June — that cases would go back up, due to variants, less mask wearing and minimal social distancing — has come true. But Sweat does not anticipate big waves like we saw last summer and last winter. 

“I don’t think we’ll see that. We have vaccines and some people have natural immunity from having COVID,” he said.

His team’s update, just posted online, shows COVID cases were up 62% during the week of July 7 through July 13 compared with the previous week in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties combined. There were 411 new cases diagnosed, compared with 256 the week before.

“I think we're going to have to watch and see. Clearly the numbers are going to go up, but where will it peak? I have a hard time predicting that,” Sweat said.

Dr. Michael Sweat 
Dr. Michael Sweat

“But watching what's going on in other places is not a good signal. In the U.K. for example, they're worried and it’s taking off and they're having a lot of hospitalizations.”

In this country, Missouri has become a hotspot. It recently reported its highest number of new cases in a single day — 2,302 — since mid-January. Neighboring Arkansas is starting to see big numbers, too.

For comparison, the July 15 COVID update from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control showed about 640 cases statewide. But that total continues to go up each day. The day before, it was 325. The day before that, it was 243.

And Sweat said another DHEC statistic jumps out at him, because it may foreshadow who catches COVID in the days ahead. “This is terrifying to me. Among 20 to 24-year-olds, only 8,140 males in the state have been vaccinated. I mean, that's sad.”

Women in that age group haven’t done much better. “Young adults are newly independent and there’s a sense of invulnerability,” Sweat said.

But he’s encouraged in some other areas when it comes to COVID. “I do want to stress a couple of things. People who are vaccinated don't have to worry too much. I mean, it really protects you against the virus. I also think most data is indicating that if you've had an infection, most likely you're pretty safe,” Sweat said.

He estimates immunity among people in the Charleston area is around 64% when you take into account people who have been vaccinated and people who have had COVID.

Statewide, almost 50% of South Carolinians have had at least one COVID vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages everyone who can to get vaccinated, even if they’ve had COVID, because it’s unclear how long immunity from an infection lasts. That would bring the next COVID case peak a lot closer – and get us back to the downward trend we enjoyed until June 23 in the Tri-county area, when cases started to go up again.

“People who need to get vaccinated would be incredibly smart to do it now,” Sweat said.

Get the Latest MUSC News

Get more stories about what's happening at MUSC, delivered straight to your inbox.