DHEC officials reflect on one year since first COVID-19 cases in SC, vaccine progress

VIDEO: DHEC officials reflect on one year since first COVID-19 cases in SC, vaccine progress

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As we approach one year since the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered in South Carolina, state health officials announced they are embarking on a new plan to distribute the vaccines regionally.

March 5, 2020 will remain the last day state health officials could say no cases of COVID-19 existed within the Palmetto State.

On Friday, DHEC officials said it’s been a challenging and unprecedented year, but residents must keep their guard up.

“I know there’s a great deal of COVID fatigue but think about how far we’ve come in a year,” Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said. “We have a renewed hope with the vaccine that we can defeat this virus but especially with new variants, we don’t want to let the pressure off now.”

Almost a year later, there are three vaccines available to protect against severe complications from the virus, and DHEC officials said nearly every long-term care facility resident and worker has been given the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Phase 1B opens to those with underlying health conditions and at-risk workers on Monday at midnight, a new chapter that will allow teachers to join the queue for their shots.

“Teachers qualify, federal guidance has made that clear,” Senior Deputy for Public Health Nick Davidson said. “Federal pharmacy partners have been asked to prioritize teachers.”

DHEC officials stressed that eligible people do not need to provide documentation of their medical conditions or risk at work to get the vaccine.

New legislation is also now in effect in South Carolina that will change the way state health officials distribute the COVID-19 vaccines to providers.

Starting with next week’s order, all first dose vaccines received by the state will be allocated to four DHEC public health regions based on per-capita and factors like poverty level, infection rates, age, and high-risk populations.

The law also requires more data sharing. Providers will have to complete daily reports breaking down the inventory of the COVID-19 vaccines.

State health officials say providers will be trained to use a portal created by DHEC on Monday and Tuesday, then they will start sharing that data with DHEC on Wednesday.

By Friday, DHEC officials expect to be able to release the data publicly.

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