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Rising COVID-19 case numbers drive state's public outreach efforts

Vaccine

With COVID-19 vaccines readily available, state health officials are working more on efforts to educate people about the vaccines and convince them to get vaccinated.

It’s not easy to pinpoint why COVID-19 case numbers are climbing again in South Carolina, but state health officials are pushing efforts to influence those who are unvaccinated to get their shots.

Since late June, South Carolina has seen a steady increase in its daily case numbers and seven-day moving averages. On June 19, the state saw an all-time low seven-day average rate of people testing positive for COVID-19: 2%. As of July 18, that rate had climbed to more than 6%.

Greenwood hasn’t seen a dramatic rise in cases, with daily case numbers still in single digits, but representatives from the state Emergency Response Team’s joint information center said the state has seen case numbers rising. The delta variant could be one factor, and more cases of it have been confirmed in the state.

“Low vaccination rates, as well as unvaccinated individuals going on vacation and congregating in public spaces without taking the recommended precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, may also play a role in the uptick,” an official said in an emailed statement.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control spearheaded the “Shot with a Chase” campaign to provide vaccines at local breweries in the state. A homebound program continuing for the rest of 2021 will provide vaccines to people unable to visit vaccine locations, along with their caregivers.

Some festivals, such as the South Carolina Festival of Discovery, hosted vaccine events, and DHEC is accepting bids for a statewide mobile unit program to offer vaccines at places where people normally congregate. While state health officials and their community partners work together, there’s more to boosting the state’s nearly 44% vaccination rate.

“We are encouraging those who are vaccinated to tell their friends and loved ones about their experience,” a state joint information center official said. “Promotions and events have been effective, but we are at a point where influence from family and friends will play a larger role in convincing those who are unvaccinated to do so.”

State officials are hoping people who have received the vaccine will help convince others to get it. DHEC has shared talking points and conversation starters for discussing vaccination with people who are hesitant, available online at bit.ly/36OJz2l.

DHEC formed several regional Community Assessment Review and Equity panels that began meeting in April. These groups, made of regional public health-related figures, have been an invaluable resource in crafting public messages and understanding how to best marshal resources, state officials said.

These CARE panels helped coordinate vaccination events with community partners, especially targeting minority populations that didn’t have as ready access to vaccines earlier this year. DHEC officials are planning a meeting with all CARE panel representatives to talk about their public health recommendations and which ones to implement.

To find out where to get a vaccine or seek more information on the available vaccines, visit vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov or call 866-365-8110 for help. Anyone age 12 or older in Greenwood can get vaccinated from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. any weekday without an appointment at Self Regional Medical Center’s drive-thru vaccination clinic at 303 W. Alexander Ave.

Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.

COVID-19

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It’s not easy to pinpoint why COVID-19 case numbers are climbing again in South Carolina, but state health officials are pushing efforts to influence those who are unvaccinated to get their shots.

Since access isn’t the problem anymore, state health officials are instead focused on convincing people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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