It seems like everyone was sick around the holidays or got sick shortly after. People you know, or maybe you got sick because South Carolina is currently dealing with a big surge in both COVID-19 and flu cases. The US is experiencing its largest COVID-19 surge since the Omicron variant in the late fall of 2021. Nearly 2 million daily infections are being estimated. The current surge in sickness is driven by the JN.1 variant. The JN.1 variant is a new version of the same COVID virus that’s been infecting people, particularly disabled people, since late 2019. Variants in the COVID-19 virus continue to occur because the virus continues to spread at high rates among people.
That’s right, the COVID-19 virus is still out there, making people sick, and has been every day, even though many of the government-funded programs to prevent and slow infection have stopped. While hospitalization rates are lower than last year, experts say there will be a rise in hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks. As people with disabilities, we know the reality is that our community members are likely to be the ones going to the hospital and dying.
In 2023, accurate tracking of COVID-19 infections as become difficult. Tracking infections is difficult because testing and tracing infrastructure has been taken apart by government cuts to public health programs that were used during the federal emergency period of the pandemic. South Carolina remains at the highest level of flu activity, contributing to the overall health crisis. Experts say the lack of protection and low vaccination rates in the state, for both COVID-19 and the flu, is said to be one of the key factors in the current rise of illness. Public health officials emphasize the importance of vaccinations, but vaccine hesitancy is still a problem.
In South Carolina, the flu vaccination rate is notably low, with only 22.68% receiving the flu shot this year. COVID-19 shot uptake is also way under what is needed to protect the community, with only 6.36% receiving the updated shot. This low vaccination rate contributes to the surge in serious COVID-19 infections, with hospitalizations increasing by 49% the week of Dec. 16. Outbreaks in nursing homes have risen, adding to the likelihood of our disabled community becoming sick or dying.
While this week reported less flu-like illness in our state, the situation is still bad for people who are more likely to experience severe sickness, like disabled folks. Health officials are absolutely not declaring victory over these sicknesses. The trends tell us that there is a decrease in flu cases and an increase in COVID-19 cases happening at the same time in South Carolina. Now is the time to protect yourself! Hospitals report challenges with rising COVID-19 cases putting pressure on the capacity of healthcare facilities.
The impact on disabled individuals in South Carolina is huge. With a surge in COVID-19 and flu cases, individuals with disabilities, who already face barriers to healthcare, are at increased risk. Outbreaks in nursing homes and healthcare facilities further heighten our chances of getting very sick and dying. It is more important than ever to practice ways to protect yourself and South Carolina’s communities:
- Get your COVID-19 and flu vaccines
- Wear a respirator mask like a KN95 or N95 in public places, especially indoors and outdoors in crowded areas
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
- Stay home if you feel sick
- Get tested for COVID-19 and the flu if you have symptoms
- Avoid other people who may be sick or have symptoms
Most importantly, Tell your friends and family to do the same. Protecting yourself helps, but protecting each other is even better.
If you still have family or friends unsure about vaccination, remind them who the vaccine is for. It is for themselves and their health. It is for you, a disabled loved one, and your health. It is for their community and the places they love. We get vaccinated for each other.
The current high infection rates for COVID-19 and the flu in South Carolina tell us this: Low vaccination, rising hospitalization, and outbreaks in our communities and places like nursing homes in SC underscore the need for immediate and consistent public health interventions that work! Countless studies have proven that vaccines work, masks work, and staying home when you’re sick work, but they only work when you put in the work.
We can help you get your vaccine and provide protective masks and COVID-19 testing supplies. Visit our Able SC offices in Greenville or Columbia for supplies or call 1-800-787-6460
Let’s do this for our disabled community. Get vaccinated. Stay safe. Be well.