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'I've never been more concerned': Top SC disease expert says about COVID-19 in the state

Dr. Bell believes we could see days of 5,000 or 6,000 cases if things don't change.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — On the same day South Carolina crossed 10,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, the state's infectious disease expert said her worry is toward the future, as the Delta variant surges virus cases.

"This is an area that I have studied for my entire career: disease control and prevention," said Dr. Linda Bell, the South Carolina State Epidemiologist, said Wednesday. "I want to bring to you today that I have never been more concerned for the health of our state than I am at this time."

RELATED: South Carolina passes 10,000 COVID-19 deaths

The state's currently in the middle of a surge not seen since the winter, with several days crossing 2,000 cases and two days of more than 3,000 cases. Bell believes those numbers could rise to over 5,000 of 6,000 cases if things don't change.

"We are heading in the wrong direction now, and we're heading there quickly," Bell said. 

Hospitalizations and deaths are also trending up, although not at quite as steep a rate. 

RELATED: CDC has new COVID vaccine recommendations for pregnant women

And said this school year could be the "perfect storm" for disease spread. She said in one week alone, DHEC confirmed 68 cases of COVID among students and 17 cases among school employees. that's with only a handful of schools with staff and faculty on campus--most districts start back next week.

Given the rise of the Delta variant and prohibition of masks mandates in schools, Dr. Bell said this year we're likely to see more outbreaks but the good news is we can avoid them.

RELATED: Richland Two announces COVID-19 safety plans for new school year

She also asked parent  to listen to their doctors.

"I've asked parents to consider the fact that you should consider the guidance of your health care providers," she said. "When are there other instances when the parent is making the decision about a treatment that's recommended for a child--the preventative measure that is recommended for a child. We know that the masks work. we know that these masks do not harm children. they do not prevent socialization and they do not prevent learning."

Dr. Bell said unless the recommended mitigation strategies are widely adopted and used, she anticipates we will see higher transmission and significant outbreaks in schools. But she emphasized that if we change the trek that we're on that can be avoided.

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