DHEC shifting to mitigation, stops contact tracing


As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase at record levels in South Carolina, public health officials today announced the state will change its efforts from containment to community mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus. South Carolinians are being called on to help by continuing to take actions we know work – wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing.

“As COVID-19 continues to spread in our communities at staggering rates, we are calling on South Carolinians to take immediate actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, Interim Public Health Director for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). “Until the COVID-19 vaccines become more readily available and enough people are vaccinated, we must all act now or continue to face unprecedented numbers of cases that are overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare systems, as well as taking the lives of those we love. To do that, every one of us must recommit to the fight. We are all on the frontlines. If we don’t act now, we could face many dark months ahead.”

During containment, the effort is made to control the spread of disease by investigating each case and all who come into contact with them. The move from disease containment to a disease mitigation phase occurs when cases of disease are widespread and difficult to investigate one by one. Information on mitigation strategies is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

However, the state’s large increases in the number of COVID-19 cases requires public health officials to focus efforts on maximizing the effectiveness of case and contact investigation.

State Takes Mitigation Measures to Put Case and Contact Investigations to Best Use

Mitigation measures seek to put case and contact investigations to their best use possible to help public health officials focus on how best to prevent further spread of disease.

During the mitigation phase, efforts of contact investigation change from attempting to find the close contacts of each individual case to prioritizing case investigations of those who have tested positive for or were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 6 days.

Beginning immediately, contact investigators will focus contact tracing efforts on:

household contacts exposed in the past 6 days, and
people living, working, or visiting shared living facilities, high-density workplaces or other settings (or events) where a lot of spread is possible.

South Carolinians should not expect individual notification that they were exposed to a case.

How Can You Help?

Everyone must play a role in preventing spread during the mitigation phase. Public health officials stress the importance of wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, staying home and away from other people when sick, and washing our hands often regardless of if cases have been reported in your immediate community.

“Our chance of getting the best outcome hinges on us all doing our part,” Dr. Traxler said. “We need South Carolinians to continue to stand together to fight this disease by taking small steps that make a big difference, including wearing your mask, getting tested and staying home when you’re sick, avoiding large gatherings, practicing physical distancing, and when it’s your turn, getting vaccinated.”

People with signs of illness must stay at home and avoid public gatherings.

For the latest information about COVID-19, visit scdhec.gov/covid19.