Governor, health officials: no need to close SC on omicron



FILE – South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Edward Simmer, right, and Governor Henry McMaster, left, discuss the state’s opening of vaccines at a more large number of people at a press conference on Tuesday March 2, 2021 in Columbia, SC McMaster said on Wednesday January 5, 2022 that there is no need to close schools and businesses due to the omicron variant of COVID-19. (AP Photo / Jeffrey Collins, file)


South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said on Wednesday that lessons learned by state officials over the past two years from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a variant that doesn’t appear to be as severe or deadly mean there is no need to shut down schools or businesses amid record numbers of cases.

The state reported more than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 on two consecutive days last weekend – a level never seen even during the sharp peaks of winter and summer 2021.

But the governor and health officials stressed that the sharp rise in cases had not led to a large increase in the number of people in hospitals, as vaccines against the virus at least appear to prevent more severe results when a person is infected with the new omicron variant.

“We’re no longer in a situation where anyone has to panic. It’s nothing like a year ago, we’ve seen it before, ”McMaster said at a press conference after introducing three chef ambassadors who will help South Carolina tourism officials promote the cuisine. unique state.

At around the same time, the state board of health was holding its monthly meeting virtually – a precaution hastily put in place for the Department of Health and Environmental Control due to the high number of COVIDs – 19.

The message from the director of DHEC was similar to that of the governor. Dr Edward Simmer said getting the shot is key. Currently, 62% of eligible people in the state have received at least one injection, while 52% are fully protected.

Simmer also said people should continue to wear masks and self-isolate if they are sick or have been closely exposed to a sick person until they can be tested.

“COVID is here to stay. We’re not going to get rid of it. But by working together, we can control it. We can limit the impact this has on our lives, ”Simmer told the DHEC board on Wednesday.

Simmer said his staff were closely monitoring hospitals. Although there are still a number of beds available, the number of COVID-19 patients in public hospitals is around 67% higher than a week ago and the number of patients on ventilators has increased by more than 50%.

The omicron variant throws a curve ball into the healthcare industry. The hardest-hit age group is the 21 to 40-year-olds, which has led to a shortage of staff in emergency rooms and emergency care clinics, Simmer said.

Another place of concern for health officials is severe cases in children. Thirty-seven children have been hospitalized this week with COVID-19, one less than last year’s peak.

But Simmer said “there is absolutely no need to close the schools,” agreed with the governor.

Simmer said schools should take measures such as providing teachers and workers with the best quality masks. McMaster also suggested using billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 education aid money paid to the state to upgrade air filtering systems, perform rapid on-site testing for students and other security measures.

“There are better educational and social outcomes for our students when they are in school,” said Simmer.

Simmer warned of a few darker weeks as the omicron variant continues to spread rapidly, even among people who have received three different injections. But he said other countries where the spread of the variant had started earlier already appeared to have passed its peak.

This positive outlook was shared a few miles from where the governor promised reporters there would be room in hospitals for anyone who was sick and urged anyone who has not been vaccinated to speak to their doctor. or someone else they trust to make medical decisions.

“South Carolina is on a positive path. There is no need to panic. Be calm. Be happy, “said McMaster.” We have just had a great Christmas season. Business is booming: our path to prosperity is brighter and brighter. “


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