DHEC shifting from containment to mitigation efforts as COVID-19 surges

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) on Thursday announced a shift in posture from containment to community mitigation efforts as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

DHEC explained that “during containment, the effort is made to control the spread of disease by investigating each case and all who come into contact with them. The move from disease containment to a disease mitigation phase occurs when cases of disease are widespread and difficult to investigate one by one.”

Contact tracing efforts will shift focus to “house hold contacts exposed in the past 6 days, and people living, working, or visiting shared living facilities, high-density workplaces or other settings (or events) where a lot of spread is possible.”

As virus spread increases, hospital and intensive care capacity are up. DHEC says that “acute care hospitals in SC are nearing capacity and Emergency Departments are overwhelmed.”

In Charleston, hospitals are 86.7% occupied. Colleton County hospitals are 55.6% occupied, Berkeley County hospitals are 78.3% occupied, Dorchester County hospitals are 96.4% occupied, and Georgetown County hospitals are 94.1% occupied.

While hospital occupancy rates account for all patients — not just COVID-19 — overcrowding leads to issues in staffing, supplies, and ability to provide care.

DHEC is calling on South Carolinians to do the things necessary to slow the spread: wear a mask, wash hands often, maintain physical distancing, and stay home. DHEC also recommends regular testing.

Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC’s Interim Public Health Director, said:

“Until the COVID-19 vaccines become more readily available and enough people are vaccinated, we must all act now or continue to face unprecedented numbers of cases that are overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare systems, as well as taking the lives of those we love. To do that, every one of us must recommit to the fight. We are all on the frontlines. If we don’t act now, we could face many dark months ahead.”