DHEC is urging people to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the holidays. Although it is too late to be fully vaccinated for Thanksgiving, it is still possible for people to get fully vaccinated in time for Christmas. Photo by Ashton Van Ness.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control held a media brief on Wednesday to discuss updates on COVID-19 and provide information about how to best prepare for the holidays. 

State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell discussed past COVID-19 trends during holiday periods and provided information for how people can best protect themselves and loved ones this holiday season. 

“For South Carolinians, DHEC is recommending that anyone planning to attend a family gathering or travel that they get tested by Saturday, November 20th before the Thanksgiving holiday to ensure that their test results will be back before Thanksgiving,” Dr. Bell said. 

Not only should those visiting family or traveling get tested before and after holiday gatherings, Dr. Bell also stressed the best way to combat the spread of COVID-19 is to be fully vaccinated. 

“By far during the holiday season, and always, the most effective thing that you can do is to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Dr. Bell said. “That is really the best and most effective means to protect us as we move into the holiday seasons.”

The state of South Carolina is currently defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as having a statewide substantial transmission rate. Bell said the decline the state was seeing is leveling off; now officials are seeing indications of increases in cases. DHEC reported 370 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. 

“I want to remind people that DHEC, along with the CDC, advises that people should not attend any social gatherings if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have tested positive in the last 10 days,” she said. “And further, if you’re not fully vaccinated, you need to wear a well-fitted mask over your nose and mouth if you’re in a public indoor setting. Even for those who are fully vaccinated, they should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission.”

It is still strongly recommended that travel be limited to those who are fully vaccinated.  

“This is one of our peak travel times and we need to be careful about the measures and about the risk of exposure while traveling on commercial carriers,” Bell said. “These are measures that can help protect ourselves and help protect our families and our loved ones.”

It was also announced there is a new pediatric portion of DHEC’s hospital dashboard. The additions track pediatric intensive care unit beds that are in use, pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations, and pediatric patients on ventilators. 

“DHEC is very glad to provide this information as it will give the public a better view of how COVID-19 is impacting the children in our state,” Bell said. 

Wednesday, DHEC announced the state has confirmed its first flu-related death. A weekly report detailing state flu cases can be found on DHEC’s Flu Watch page

Airlines are requiring passengers to wear masks throughout the duration of all flights. Restrictions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements for international travel vary per country but can be found on the CDC’s website.