DHEC – Staying home is best way to stay safe

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As deaths, daily cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to increase at alarming rates in South Carolina and across the country, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reminds South Carolinians that staying home is the best way to stay safe this holiday season.

“It’s not worth the risk,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim Public Health Director. “Celebrating this holiday season like we would any other year puts the health of you and your loved ones in jeopardy. Staying home means staying safe. If you need to be out in a public setting like a grocery store or post office, wear your mask and physically distance from others by at least six feet. Getting tested regularly is also recommended so you know your health status in regard to COVID-19. It’s worth it to change how we celebrate this year so we can all be together next year.”

Certain activities put individuals, their loved ones and their communities at higher risk for spreading COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against holiday traveling and group gatherings and instead urges celebrations limited to those who are members of the same household.

Connecting with friends and family by phone or computer, virtually attending religious ceremonies, and dressing warmly to spend time outdoors are some of the best ways to celebrate this year. Being outdoors can also help boost physical and emotional health. However, being outdoors when around others doesn’t eliminate the need for other protective behaviors, including physical distancing.

For those who choose to travel or attend a group gathering, be aware of the risks to you and others, and practice the prevention methods that work for limiting disease spread:

wear a mask
physically distance from others by at least six feet
get tested and know your results before and after you travel or attend a gathering
wash your hands frequently
adhere to quarantine or isolation guidance as recommended to you by a health care professional
Residents are also urged to take advantage of the more than 300 testing locations across the state.

“It’s important to remember that after getting tested and even after getting a negative test result, you still need to wear a mask and physically distance,” Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist. “The virus is widespread throughout our state and country and exposure to the virus could occur almost anywhere. It’s important to take steps to protect ourselves and those around us.”

As South Carolinians continue to follow public health recommendations, expect an influx at popular testing locations over the coming days, and use the map at scdhec.gov/COVID19testing to find another nearby testing location that may not be as busy. All DHEC-sponsored testing locations use pain-free nose or oral swabs or saliva testing. Results can take up to 96 hours, so plan to get tested with enough days to know your result before choosing to travel or attend a gathering.

“We understand how long and hard this year has been, but we can expect staggering numbers over the holidays if we let down our guard now,” Dr. Bell said. “I’ll be staying home this Christmas, and that’s how I’ll be keeping myself and my loved ones safe. There’s no greater gift than the health of our loved ones.”

For addition holiday safety tips, visit scdhec.gov/holidaytips.