Doctors from Prisma Health reacted Wednesday to new Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for masks to be worn indoors, imploring state residents to take advantage of a wealth of available vaccines to curb the more communicable Delta variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
“The current surge of what is going on now is a scourge of the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Rick Scott, chairman of the Prisma Vaccination Task Force. “The mast majority of those hospitalized are unfortunately people who are not vaccinated.”
On Monday, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control echoed the CDC’s call for a return to mask wearing indoors and in close quarters.
DHEC reported 1,099 new cases Monday around the state, including 18 in South Carolina.
Scott said the number of hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients within the Prisma Health Care system has increased 10-fold over the past month from 10 patients in June to 111 patients Tuesday morning.
Dr. Helmut Albrecht, an infectious disease expert and the director of infectious disease research and policy for Prisma, said South Carolina is among the states with a low vaccination rate – less than 50% with both vaccinations – and model as to why the CDC issued new guidelines.
Albrecht said outbreaks of the Delta variant in Israel and England centered around schools, and the new mask guidelines are part of an effort to stop another surge in the U.S.
“We should learn something. Most of the English and Israeli outbreaks started in schools,” he said. “We need to get the masking efforts are because we need to get the numbers back down otherwise this will be an unmitigated disaster.”
Scott said there is no shortage of vaccines, and Prisma officials are hoping to use of its available stock before some of it expires in August.
“It’s widely available,” he said. “There are over 120 vaccination sites within 20 miles of Greenville Memorial Hospital.”
In Laurens County, vaccination sites include area pharmacies and groceries as well as Prisma Laurens Hospital, local physicians offices and the Laurens County Health Department.