DHEC leader weighs in on loosening nursing home visitations as residents, staff continue vaccinations

DHEC leader weighs in on loosening nursing home visitations as residents, staff continue vaccinations
(Source: Gray DC)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – For the first time on Friday, the Department of Health and Environmental Control was able to provide information on how many COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

Currently, all doses of the Moderna vaccine are dedicated to vaccinating those in long-term care facilities. It is being done through a federal partnership with Walgreens and CVS pharmacies. The pharmacies are holding vaccination clinics at every long-term care facility in South Carolina.

Those clinics started happening the week of December 28 when the Moderna vaccine was shipped to the pharmacies.

As of Friday, 86,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine have been shipped to South Carolina. Out of those doses, 5,511 residents have received the first dose of the vaccine and 2,721 staff members have been vaccinated. It is a total of 8,232 people in long-term care facilities.

DHEC leaders explained that this is the latest information that it has received from Tiberius, a federal database that is not managed by the state.

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During a news briefing on Friday, DHEC’s interim Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler weighed in on loosening restrictions at nursing homes so that people could see their loved ones more.

She said that there are two big components of info they will need to follow before determining if visitation restrictions can be loosened.

She said first it all depends on vaccinations and cases within the facilities.

“One will be the uptake of vaccines in facilities both by the residents and the staff, which should hopefully lead to a decrease in cases within the facilities and that would be one factor that we would be looking at as we want to make sure there aren’t cases in the facilities without increasing visitation,” Traxler said.

The second component would be what is happening outside of long-term facility walls, and if the spread of COVID-19 is high or not.

“I think the other factor we would certainly be looking at is the vaccination uptake rate and the level of disease activity in the community that the family members would be coming from when they go into the facilities,” Traxler added.

Back in October, DHEC released guidelines for indoor and outdoor visitation at long-term care facilities. Family members are also told to call an individual facility to confirm the visitation policy.

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