COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported nearly 6,000 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday.

DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said early data is showing Friday’s number will be higher. She also expects the number of new daily COVID-19 cases to continue to soar in early January.

Dr. Traxler said, “We recognize that at this point people are numb to the data, but these stats aren’t simply numbers. They represent people. People who are our family members, friends and loved ones who are sick, hospitalized and dying from this disease.”

As cases continue to climb, Dr. Traxler is recommending South Carolinians adjust their New Years Eve plans. She said, “We recognize many people have already inked their New Year’s plans. But given these high case counts, and what will happen if a collective change isn’t made, we urge everyone across our state to strongly consider the dire times we are in.”

Dr. Traxler said the increase in cases is ‘flat out alarming’. She said, “We are at a crucial moment in this pandemic. We don’t want to start 2022 with record numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, and we are headed in that direction.”

Right now, 51.8% of eligible South Carolinians are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Traxler said one of the best things someone can do to protect themselves is to start their vaccination series and get their booster shot when they’re eligible.

She said, “It’s keeping many people who are getting infected to cold or flu like symptoms as opposed to something that would require hospitalization and even death.”