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DHEC: SC long-term care facilities seeing increase in resident, staff cases

State health leaders are encouraging vaccinations and booster shots as a means of protection.

SUMTER, S.C. — Adjusting to the unknown has become routine for long-term care facilities like Covenant Place of Sumter.

So, when a surge of new coronavirus cases sprung up in the state, Melissa Bean, their marketing director, said they knew what to do.

"We're far from where we were last year," Bean said. "We are still using the standard precautions. We're doing our best to socially distance, wear our mask, but with the new changes that the CDC and DHEC have put forth, we are still able to dine together and have our activities.”

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Last year, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) loosened visitation guidance to allow more opportunities for families to connect.

While DHEC says the updated guidance includes recommendations for preventing disease spread during a surge, its also working with facilities like Covenant Place to provide testing and support.

"In our community, so far, so good for us," Bean said. "I think it has had a significance that we have almost all of our residents are vaccinated, the one is for medical reasons, and nearly 90 percent of our staff members have been vaccinated and boosted."

Many other facilities are also seeing high vaccination rates among residents, DHEC said.

Despite this, the agency has seen an increase in cases at long-term care facilities among both residents and staff in recent weeks.

RELATED: South Carolina shatters COVID case record again: 13,320

According to department data, of the more than 400 facilities in the state, 138 were experiencing an "active outbreak" Wednesday, meaning they've had one or more cases in the past two weeks.

While the visitation guidance remains unchanged, DHEC is encouraging vaccinations and booster shots as a means of protection. 

The residents are just hoping for a sense of normalcy soon.

"Just back to being back together and enjoying life to its fullest," Bean said.