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SC health officials urge extra New Year’s Eve COVID-19 precautions

Health department reported new record single-day new COVID case count record Friday
Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 11:51 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 31, 2021 at 5:43 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - State health officials are urging South Carolinians to continue taking precautions against COVID-19 as they prepare to celebrate the new year.

The warning from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control comes as the state reported its highest number of new cases in a single day on Friday. The 8,882 cases announced on Friday surpassed the previous record of 7,686 cases reported on Jan. 6, 2021.

DHEC’s director put it simply and starkly. Dr. Edward Simmer said he believes January will be a difficult month for South Carolina.

“For many reasons, I think when I see 9,000 cases, I am very concerned,” he said. “We do not want people to panic. We do not want people to stop going about their daily lives, but they are going to have to make some changes.”

In a release, DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler urged South Carolinians to avoid large crowds.

“As South Carolina braces for yet another new record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases, we are urging all South Carolinians to take steps to safely ring in the New Year as we enter the third year affected by this pandemic,” Traxler said. “While we prepare to celebrate New Year’s Eve, we recognize that the virus is still very much present in communities and households across the state, and it is incumbent upon all of us to take actions to protect ourselves and those around us. This includes avoiding crowds and large gatherings and staying at home, if possible.”

DHEC is recommending those that decide to attend a New Year’s Eve party to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status and suggests taking a different approach to the holiday such as virtual toasts or planning a neighborhood countdown where everyone can stand at their front door or porch.

The agency is also advising people to get tested if they have symptoms or believe they’ve been exposed to the virus. DHEC says around 300 testing sites have been open on weekdays, though long lines snarling around those sites through this week have lengthened wait times.

In addition, DHEC says they are working to increase testing capacity at sites and ensure turn-around times in labs remain at 24 to 48 hours. They say to plan ahead and prepare for longer wait times and the number of people getting tested increases.

“Increased number of sites, increased throughput at the sites that we have, increase the options for the types of tests — all of those are things being done literally as we speak right now,” Traxler said.

DHEC does believe cases are being under-reported to an extent with more people taking at-home tests, which don’t count toward the state’s number of cases reported.

Doctors say if you have symptoms and test positive on an at-home test, you should go into isolation right away. But they say there is no need to get a PCR test as well.

If you have symptoms and test negative, on the other hand, you should get a PCR test to confirm.

DHEC says its recommendation is for people to be “maximally vaccinated,” as it’s calling it. That means getting the initial one or two-shot series plus a booster if you are eligible.

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