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'I had no clue I had it': SC vaccine breakthrough patients share story

The latest numbers from DHEC show more than 550 vaccine breakthrough cases - or, fully-vaccinated individuals who contracted COVID-19.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The latest numbers from DHEC show more than 550 vaccine breakthrough cases - or, fully-vaccinated individuals who contracted COVID-19.

Today, News 19 is sharing the stories of two such people in the Midlands and their message to the public.

"What I've heard about COVID, that was not me at all."

Stacy Clarke, a school counselor in Lexington, was considered fully-vaccinated in April.

RELATED: DHEC releases back-to-school guidance as COVID Delta variant spreads in state

She tested positive for COVID-19 this month.

"If I didn't go in, I probably wouldn't have known that I had COVID because I never felt COVID," said Clarke. "I never had those types of symptoms."

Credit: Stacy Clarke (WLTX)

Clarke says she got a COVID test after a friend's results came back positive.

"So I had my test done and it was negative, so all is good," she said.

Days later, she began to feel slightly ill.

"My throat was kind of hurting, I started developing a little bit of a cough," said Clarke.

She says doctors treated her for a respiratory infection since she had no fever and her recent test came back negative. When her throat started to bother her even more, she went to urgent care.

"[Urgent Care] said, 'I'll test you for strep throat, but I think I wanna test you for COVID too'. So I'm like, 'Ok, that will be fine'," Clarke recalled. "She comes back about 30, 40 minutes later and tells me, 'Your strep throat test came back negative, but your COVID test came back positive'. I was like, 'Huh?'"

That was a week and a half ago. Other than a scratchy throat, Clarke says she feels fine.

"It scares me to think of what it could have done if I had not had the vaccine," she said. "I'm also Type 2 diabetic and I have high blood pressure. My husband is a diabetic."

Juan Carlos Hernandez works at a restaurant in Columbia.

Credit: Juan Carlos Hernandez Cordova (WLTX)

He was also fully-vaccinated in April and contracted COVID-19 this month. He says he began experiencing symptoms a couple of weeks ago.

"Nausea, headache, loss of appetite. That's why I went to get a test. 15 days ago, I tested positive for COVID-19," said Hernandez.

At his work, he says employees can wear masks, but it's not required. Eight of his co-workers, he says, also got infected.

"In general, people are taking this all very lightly," said Hernandez. "The fact is this virus attacks. It doesn't matter if you're vaccinated or not."

Hernandez says he's almost fully recovered.

"The only symptom I still have is the loss of smell. I can't smell," he explained. "Symptoms for the vaccinated like me are mild."

Both Clark and Hernandez are still testing positive, but remain firm in saying their shots helped them heal at home.

"Please get the vaccine," said Clarke. "If you have not had it, please get it because it truly does make a difference."

"People need to understand, the more people who get vaccinated, the quicker we can get out of this pandemic and return to the normality we all want," said Hernandez.

RELATED: South Carolina sees highest number of COVID cases in over 5 months