DHEC shifts from containment to mitigation efforts as COVID-19 cases in S.C. hit ‘record levels’

CDC recommends masks in public settings

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – State health officials announced Thursday they will change their COVID-19 efforts from containment to community mitigation as cases continue to increase at “record levels” in South Carolina.

According to information from the Department of Health and Environmental Control, during containment, the effort is made to control the spread of disease by investigating each case and all who come into contact with them. The move from disease containment to a disease mitigation phase occurs when cases of disease are widespread and difficult to investigate one by one.

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 six days.

According to DHEC, beginning immediately, contact investigators will focus contact tracing efforts on:

  • household contacts exposed in the past six days
  • people living, working, or visiting shared living facilities, high-density workplaces or other settings (or events) where a lot of spread is possible.

“South Carolinians should not expect individual notification that they were exposed to a case,” a DHEC release stated.

During the first two weeks of 2021, 45,210 South Carolinians were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, according to DHEC.

As of Thursday morning, acute care hospitals in South Carolina are nearing capacity and “emergency departments are overwhelmed,” state health officials said.

According to DHEC, of the 11,329 inpatient beds currently being used for patient care, 2,427 are occupied by patients who have either tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19.

In addition, of the 1,754 ICU beds currently being used for patient care, 465 are occupied by COVID-19 patients. Meanwhile of the 1,948 available ventilators, 744 are in use and 290 of those are COVID-19 patients.

“Many hospitals in the state are now cancelling elective services to deal with the overwhelming increase in the number of patients,” a DHEC release stated.

Public health officials stressed the importance of wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, staying home and away from other people when sick, and washing hands often.

“Our chance of getting the best outcome hinges on us all doing our part,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC’s interim public health director, 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.”

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