DHEC to prioritize case investigations of positive, diagnosed COVID-19 cases; releases new numbers related to virus

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control officials announced Thursday they would be shifting their efforts from containment to community mitigation measure to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“As COVID-19 continues to spread in our communities at staggering rates, we are calling on South Carolinians to take immediate actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, Interim Public Health Director for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said. “Until the COVID-19 vaccines become more readily available and enough people are vaccinated, we must all act now or continue to face unprecedented numbers of cases that are overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare systems, as well as taking the lives of those we love. To do that, every one of us must recommit to the fight. We are all on the frontlines. If we don’t act now, we could face many dark months ahead.”

DHEC is asking SC residents to continue to wearing a mask and practice social distancing.

“During containment, the effort is made to control the spread of disease by investigating each case and all who come into contact with them,” according to the release. “The move from disease containment to a disease mitigation phase occurs when cases of disease are widespread and difficult to investigate one by one.”

DHEC officials said there are 4,809 new confirmed cases of the virus, as well as 18 confirmed deaths.

There are 136 new probable cases and 5 new probable deaths.

“These increases come as South Carolina faces new records for the highest number of new total cases and highest positivity rate – reaching 5,077 new cases Wednesday, Jan. 6 and a positive rate of 34.2% Tuesday, Jan. 5,” according to the release. “During the first two weeks of 2021 alone, 45,210 South Carolinians were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in South Carolina to 337,845, probable cases to 33,335, confirmed deaths to 5,420, and 514 probable deaths.”

Hospital bed and ventilator use information from DHEC:

  • Acute care hospitals in South Carolina are nearing capacity and Emergency Departments are overwhelmed
  • 11,329 inpatient beds are being used for patient care
  • 2,427 inpatient beds are occupied by those who have tested positive or are under investigation for the virus
  • 1,754 ICU beds are being used for patient care
  • 465 ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients
  • There are 1,948 available ventilators
  • There are 744 ventilators are in use and 290 of those are COVID-19 patients
  • Many hospitals in SC are cancelling elective services to help deal with overwhelming increase in number of patients

According to the release, during the mitigation phase “efforts of contact investigation change from attempting to find the close contacts of each individual case to prioritizing case investigations of those who have tested positive for or were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 6 days.”

DHEC officials said contact investigators will now focus contact tracing efforts on”

  • Household contacts exposed in the past 6 days
  • People living, working, or visiting shared living facilities, high-density workplaces or other settings/events where spread of the virus is possible

“Our chance of getting the best outcome hinges on us all doing our part,” Traxler said. “We need South Carolinians to continue to stand together to fight this disease by taking small steps that make a big difference, including wearing your mask, getting tested and staying home when you’re sick, avoiding large gatherings, practicing physical distancing, and when it’s your turn, getting vaccinated.”

For more information about COVID-19, visit scdhec.gov/covid19.

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