DHEC says 3,000 more people in SC could die by April from COVID-19 if changes are not made
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials with the Department of Health and Environmental Control said thousands of more people could die from COVID-19 by early next year if the state does not do something different in its fight against the virus.
“From the end of November until the beginning of April an additional 3,000 more South Carolinians may die if we don’t do something differently,” Dr. Linda Bell with DHEC said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
She said if mask compliance was 95% in a week, 1,000 of those expected 3,000 lives could be saved.
Gov. Henry McMaster said now was not the time “to let up” and warned that the vaccine will be a slow process for South Carolinians as most will not be vaccinated for months. Bell stressed that the public has the ability to make a difference in stopping the spread of the virus now by wearing a mask and socially distancing.
She said recent case numbers in the state have reached an unprecedented level as well as in the country as a whole. Just last week DHEC reported two of the highest days of cases since the pandemic first came to South Carolina.
Health officials said currently there are only six counties in the state with a downward trajectory. DHEC officials reported that there are currently 1100 people hospitalized statewide due to COVID-19 which is the highest level it’s been since the summer.
According to Bell, the current rise in COVID-19 cases is impacting health providers, resources and workers as they travel from one area to another to assist in the state’s efforts to combat the virus.
Health officials say there is hope on the horizon with the first allocation of COVID-19 vaccines set to be delivered to the state this month, but stress it will be a few months until the general public would receive the vaccines as the initial supplies will be given to health care workers first.
The governor also addressed school districts who have not given parents the choice of allowing their children to go back to school for in-class traditional learning. McMaster said those districts were not doing “the right thing” by not giving parents the option.
“[Parents] must go to work to pay the bills and provide for their families,” he said. “Parents should not have to choose between their child or their job.”
McMaster said many parents cannot stay home with their children every day, and there was no reason for schools not to be opening if what’s stopping them is personal protective equipment.
According to the governor, the state has an abundance of PPE, and over $10 million of equipment was shipped out to school districts in response to McMaster’s offer. In addition, the governor said school districts have received over $400 million in CARES Act funds to bring students back to the classroom.
This brought up the governor’s order to DHEC to provide every school district with COVID-19 rapid tests which some have declined.
McMaster said he did not understand why some school districts declined the offer since the tests are available and free. Some school districts have said that they lack the manpower to administer those tests while keeping up with their regular duties.
Dr. Linda Bell said while she continues to see concerns in the community regarding the virus and schools, she said she did not see significant evidence of COVID-19 transmission within school campuses.
“We continue to see concerns in the community though, and I just want to reinforce the message that we have to make our community safer to make our schools safer,” Bel said.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported a total of 2,139 newly-confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Today’s DHEC report also showed 71 probable new cases, 26 confirmed deaths and 1 probable death in the state.
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