DHEC supports updated approach to tracking COVID cases

DHEC announced they will begin reporting new COVID case counts on a weekly basis on Tuesday.
DHEC announced they will begin reporting new COVID case counts on a weekly basis on Tuesday.(Mary Green)
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 12:43 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2022 at 4:26 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says they support focusing on tracking severe COVID cases rather than daily cases.

The Center for Disease Control announced they are focusing less on daily cases and more on cases that result in hospitalizations on Friday.

DHEC says this mirrors their recently updated method in tracking cases.

“We announced last month that our goal is to bring cases down to a level that allows us to live our normal lives with very little interruption,” DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer says. “The CDC’s announcement reflects that thinking by using severe COVID-19 cases to measure how the virus is impacting local communities. We agree with this methodology, especially as cases continue declining and rapid at-home tests become even more accessible.”

DHEC announced they will begin reporting new COVID case counts on a weekly basis on Tuesday. The agency will begin the weekly reports on March 15.

In addition, DHEC has started scaling back the number of agency-managed COVID testing sites.

Through March 14, DHEC-managed vendor testing sites in all counties with five or more non-DHEC PCR test providers will be closed.

From March 14 through April 1, DHEC will further scale back its testing locations, closing test sites in counties with at least two non-DHEC PCR test providers.

“Recent state and federal guidelines are geared toward creating a sense of normalcy we’ve all been waiting for,” Simmer says. “But this new normal has to account for the fact that COVID-19 is still a deadly virus that is here to stay. We must continue following updated guidance and doing our part to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

DHEC’s testing locator will be updated in real-time to reflect when a specific site is no longer open.

As for the new CDC guidelines, they can be found here. In part, they state:

  • Rather than focusing on eliminating all virus transmission, CDC will recommend prevention measures, such as masks, when the level of severe disease in communities has the potential to overwhelm the healthcare system. These prevention measures can reduce that strain and avoid a crisis.
  • These new metrics help communities determine which prevention strategies are needed to prevent local disruptions from COVID-19, increase protection against severe disease and strained hospitals, and save lives.
  • COVID-19 Community Levels combine hospital capacity and COVID-19 hospital admissions with cases to identify when a community is facing a low, medium, or high level of risk from COVID-19. These data tell us how many people in the area are getting sick enough to require medical care, and if the area’s healthcare system has the resources to provide care for all patients, including those who need care for something other than COVID-19.

The updated guidance also provides masking suggestions for when a community is experiencing high, medium, or low levels of transmission.

  • For low-level transmission in a community, masking is “not needed in most settings,” according to the CDC but remains optional for individuals.
  • In times of medium transmission, individuals who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, as well as those who are regularly around immunocompromised individuals, are encouraged to mask up, while it is optional for others.
  • In times of high transmission, community masking is recommended in indoor settings, including schools and workplaces.

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