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Spike in virus cases puts strain on DHEC contact tracers

DHEC officials say they are working to ramp up their efforts with contact tracing, but the continued increase in COVID-19 cases is making it difficult.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) officials held a conference call with reporters to explain the rise in cases around the state.

On Thursday, DHEC announced 1,723 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 22 additional deaths, bringing the total number of cases around the state to 50,548.

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"We continue to see more and more young people under the age of 35 contracting the virus and this also seems to be the age group predominantly spreading the virus as well," says Dr. Joan Duwve, director of public health for DHEC.

Dr. Duwve explained that the rapid increase of cases is putting a strain on their ability to provide contact tracing, which helps narrow down how many other people could have been exposed from a COVID-19 positive case.

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"Sometimes in a pandemic like we're in now, when the number of cases really increases rapidly, we out pace our capacity to effectively do contact tracing, but I will say at this time we are ramping up the number of investigators and contact tracers," says Dr. Duwve.

Along with the increasing rate in cases, there are higher hospitalizations related to the virus. On Thursday, 1,433 people around the state were reported to be hospitalized because of COVID-19, with now 172 people requiring ventilators.

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Every week, DHEC also provides data on the percent positive trends in counties around the state. The most recent data shows that all but seven counties are seeing high disease activity as a result of the spread of the virus.

"We have only a few things that we can do to prevent this virus from continuing to spread, as currently there is no vaccine or no cure to COVID-19," says Dr. Duwve. "Our friends, our fellow South Carolinians are now sicker than they have ever been because of this virus. I hope this is a stark reminder to all of us that our actions are important and they impact and they affect others."

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