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Health experts expect social distancing measures to remain in place for several more weeks

Health experts expect social distancing measures to remain in place for several more weeks
Health experts expect social distancing measures to remain in place for several more weeks(Caroline Coleburn)
Updated: Apr. 13, 2020 at 6:37 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As South Carolina continues to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Governor Henry McMaster has extended the state of emergency for another 15 days.

Many South Carolinians are wondering when life will begin to get back to normal. Some health experts say you can expect social distancing measures to remain in place for the next six weeks and potentially longer.

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“There's a lot of people out in the community we haven’t even tested for, and that’s one of the huge weaknesses that we don't have sufficient testing to know how many cases are out there," explained public health expert, Dr. Kevin Soden. Soden believes South Carolina was late to take measures to stop the spread of the virus. “People were gathering together and doing things like going to the beaches and this sort of thing, so I think they may be behind the 8-ball a little bit," said Soden.

A model used by White House and South Carolina health officials predicts COVID-19 deaths will peak at the end of April, but scientist Jamie Vernon, who's also the CEO of Sigma Xi, says it will be difficult to identify the peak. "What we’re going to have to look for are the most severe cases, and as the number of people showing up in hospitals with severe cases needing intensive care goes down, we’ll have some confidence that the overall case numbers are going down," Vernon explained.

Vernon says he doesn’t expect South Carolina schools to reopen this year, and believes stay at home orders and store closures will last longer too. “There will be continued extensions, and that’s based on the data. It will probably be safe somewhat by mid-summer to June, July time frame for people to visit small numbers of family members," he explained.

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World health leaders are in the process of developing a COVID-19 vaccine, but it could be months before it’s rolled out. In the meantime, both Soden and Vernon say they would like to see Governor McMaster and state leaders across the country call on the federal government to invest in COVID-19 tests and antibody tests. This will determine who currently has the virus and also who may have already had it. They believe that is how we will be able to get the economy back up and running.

Some health experts say we can still expect to see COVID-19 cases through the end of the year. However, they say there is some good news. The virus does not seem to be mutating quickly, so once a vaccine is available, they believe there is a good chance they will be able to eliminate the virus.

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