DHEC optimistic Memorial Day weekend won’t be COVID ‘super-spreader’ event

Published: May. 27, 2021 at 5:17 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Grand Strand beaches and businesses are expected to be packed this Memorial Day weekend.

Despite the relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says it will be watching and tracking this weekend’s impact on case counts in the Palmetto State.

“Got tired of the cornfields - had to come see the beach,” said Indiana University student Tyler Pendygraft.

Pendygraft and his friends from college decided to “come to see the beach” when it will be at its liveliest: Memorial Day weekend.

They all got vaccinated first, which makes them feel somewhat more comfortable while they try to unwind.

“Last year, being young and trying to have summer was not fun because we had to have masks and all of those restrictions. But now, we’re like actually having fun,” said Olivia Noone, Pendygraft’s friend.

DHEC expects plenty of groups like those Hoosiers to flock to the beach this weekend.

But the agency is optimistic those groups are vaccinated so the weekend won’t become a ‘super-spreader.’

“The benefit to this holiday is that it’s one many people spend outdoors,” said DHEC Public Health Director Brannon Traxler. “I certainly encourage people to do that again as we know there is less risk with being outdoors versus indoors. In addition, the higher rates we see of people being vaccinated will decrease the chances of this becoming a super-spreader.”

Last Memorial Day weekend, the seven-day moving average for new coronavirus cases in South Carolina was 177.

That number quickly went up to more than 500 by the middle of June, and well over 1,000 by July. This is why DHEC is still advising people who haven’t been vaccinated to be careful.

“If you’re not fully vaccinated, even if you’re going to be outdoors, don’t be around large crowds and don’t be in big group gatherings with other unvaccinated people,” said Traxler.

Memorial Day weekend this year won’t feature any mask mandates or capacity limits.

It’s been nearly two weeks since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its mask recommendations for vaccinated people.

“So far, we have not seen an uptick in cases,” said Traxler. “We continue to do our surveillance just as diligently as ever.”

DHEC is still working with labs throughout the state to submit all COVID-19 tests within 24 hours.

That way they can have an idea of how this weekend will, or won’t, impact the case count.

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