Coronavirus cases among Savannah River Site workers jump amid omicron spread

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Jan. 13—The Savannah River Site late last week recorded 239 cases of COVID-19 among its thousands-strong workforce, exponentially more than in weeks prior.

The spike, disclosed on the SRS emergency website, updated regularly throughout the coronavirus pandemic, comes amid a precipitous increase in cases across the U.S. as well as a dearth of testing capacity and supplies.

The Savannah River Site-specific figures posted Jan. 7 are a drastic departure from the holiday season, when its caseload hovered in the low double-digits: 17 and 18.

In many regards — coronavirus included — the Savannah River Site is a reflection of the South Carolina and Georgia communities that surround it; when cases explode outside the fence, in places like Aiken and North Augusta, cases inside the fence and among teleworkers typically do, too.

Officials say the jump in cases has not impeded operations at the site, where nuclear waste is treated and nuclear weapons work is conducted. Officials have said the same for COVID-19 vaccine requirements, which were enacted last year and remain controversial and the subject of litigation.

Coronavirus cases in recent days have skyrocketed in South Carolina, as the highly contagious omicron variant washes over the state. The variant was first detected abroad, and has since proliferated stateside.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert, this week said omicron "will, ultimately, find just about everybody." Fauci emphasized the value of inoculation, as well.

"Those who have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted would get exposed," Fauci said in a discussion with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death."

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