South Carolina health officials are warning residents to consider the risks before they travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
The consensus from health care experts is for the public to avoid large gatherings whenever possible. That includes seeing family or friends for the holidays.
"We recognize that the holiday season is a sacred time, and we encourage South Carolinians to avoid indoor gatherings and maintain their commitment to activities that reduce the spread of COVID-19," the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said in a statement released Monday.
For those who must travel, officials from Roper St. Francis Healthcare and the Medical University of South Carolina have shared some pointers on how to stay safe.
Everyone should be tested for COVID-19 three days before they travel or host a gathering, according to officials from Roper. Someone not showing symptoms could unknowingly pass it to friends and family.
After getting a test, quarantine while you wait for the result, officials said. Even if the test comes back negative, Roper officials recommend any travelers or hosts continue to wash their hands often, wear a mask and avoid large gatherings. Getting a test after any event is also recommended.
Roper St. Francis Express Care clinics are offering coronavirus tests with results in two days, hospital officials said. Patients can visit any clinic location daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Officials also ask travelers to consider the following before embarking:
- Is COVID-19 spreading at your destination?
- Do you live with someone who might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19?
- Are you at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19?
- Does your destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers?
MUSC officials said they're concerned the holiday season could contribute to a higher spread of cases in the Charleston area.
“I can’t tell you how strongly I worry about the holidays,” said MUSC's Dr. Michael Sweat in a release.
Cooler weather may have already contributed to a rise in cases, Sweat said, due to lowered humidity and forcing people indoors, where social distancing is more difficult.
During the Thanksgiving holidays, time around people outside one's household should be kept to a minimum, and wearing a mask is key, even around family, Sweat advised.
Outside events are best, but if inside, opening doors and windows will help air circulate. Guests should spread out in multiple rooms and avoid sitting across from or close to one another, officials said. Any gathering should be limited to immediate family or a small group. Talking loudly and singing should be avoided.
Officials with DHEC, S.C. Hospital Association and MUSC encouraged residents across the state to avoid indoor Thanksgiving gatherings and to continue to practice physical distancing and wearing a face mask.
The agencies urged college students visiting home for Thanksgiving to get a coronavirus test first.
New cases reported: 981, which is 521 percent higher than the 158 tallied on March 31, the day Gov. Henry McMaster ordered nonessential businesses to close.
Total cases in S.C.: 185,390, plus 11,227 probable cases
New deaths reported: 27
Total deaths in S.C.: 3,873 confirmed, 270 probable
Total tests in S.C.: 2,348,090
Hospitalized patients: 769
Percent of positive tests, seven-day average: 15.1 percent. Five percent of tests or fewer returning positive results is a good sign the virus’ spread is slowing, researchers say.
The top South Carolina counties for new coronavirus cases on Monday were Greenville, 193; Spartanburg, 74; and Horry, 59.
What about the tri-county?
Charleston County reported 44 new cases, Berkeley logged 13 and Dorchester reported 15.
DHEC reported Monday that two Berkeley County patients had died after contracting the virus.
Of the 27 new deaths that DHEC reported Monday, three were middle-aged patients aged 35 to 64. The rest were elderly patients aged 65 or older.
They lived in Aiken, Anderson, Berkeley, Cherokee, Chester, Dillon, Darlington, Fairfield, Georgetown, Greenville, Horry, Lancaster, Lexington, Pickens, Richland, Spartanburg and Sumter counties.
Of the 769 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, 210 were in intensive care and 102 were on ventilators.
What do experts say?
Authorities continue to urge South Carolinians to take precautions such as wearing masks or other face coverings, social distancing and frequently washing hands.
They also urge anyone who believes they’ve been exposed to the virus or who is developing symptoms to get tested. Those out in the community or not able to socially distance should get tested monthly, DHEC advised.
Go to scdhec.gov/findatest to find a testing site in your area.