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DHEC expresses concern about potential post-Thanksgiving spike in COVID cases, offers holiday safety tips

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 8:20 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2021 at 8:43 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Thursday will mark the second Thanksgiving since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and many families across South Carolina are putting the final touches on holiday plans.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control still recommends that people refrain from large gatherings, especially while indoors.

However, if people are gathering, they say testing before and after travel is a smart move. They also encourage people to follow recommended safety protocols, including wearing masks and washing hands.

For those most at risk, doctors say families should add extra layers of protection. They say anyone not vaccinated should wear a mask and dine apart from others.

In the last three months, COVID cases in South Carolina are down significantly. There were 6,333 total statewide COVID cases on September first, but that number has steadily declined to 580 total cases as of Monday. That’s a 90 percent decrease.

They are up slightly over the course of this month, though. Monday’s total case count represents a 6.2 percent increase from November 1′s tally of 546 cases.

Last year, cases more than tripled from Thanksgiving day to January 8.

When asked whether DHEC anticipates a similar post-Thanksgiving surge this year, DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said it’s difficult to project when and how cases will rise, and last year’s spike came in the absence of vaccines.

“At this time last year, we didn’t have a vaccine and we didn’t know about so many different variants of the virus,” she said. “So it all depends on how much we can increase our vaccinations, and how safe South Carolinians stay while celebrating over the holidays.”

However, Traxler said she is worried about a potential post-holiday rise in cases.

“In general, any time large amounts of unvaccinated and or unmasked folks gather together, COVID-19 can and will spread more rapidly,” she said. “So from that standpoint, there is concern that we could see an uptick, which is why we are pushing so hard for vaccinations and other safety protocols.”

DHEC says if someone were to start their vaccination today, they should be fully vaccinated in time to celebrate Christmas.

“The uptick we’re seeing is concerning especially as we get further into the holiday season,” Traxler said, addressing recent case numbers increasing nationwide. “I know at this point it may sound like a broken record, but we honestly don’t know how else to say it. Vaccinations will help us beat COVID-19 and we need everyone on board if we’re going to finally end this pandemic.”

As of Monday, six percent of South Carolina children aged 5-11 have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

57.5 percent of all eligible South Carolinians have received at least one shot, and 49.8 percent are considered fully vaccinated.

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