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EDITORIAL: Holidays mean decision time amid pandemic

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The year 2021 has proven more deadly from the COVID-19 pandemic than the shutdown year of 2020. Even with more than half of the U.S. population vaccinated, the coronavirus remains a threat.

With end-of-year holidays approaching, decisions will have to be made by families and groups as to how they will be celebrated. Toward making the choices, here's some information.

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Throughout the pandemic, the personal finance website WalletHub has been ranking the 50 states and the District of Columbia for safety. WalletHub compares the rates of COVID-19 transmission, positive testing, hospitalizations and death, as well as the share of the eligible population getting vaccinated.

Based on data available as of Oct. 13, South Carolina is the seventh least-safe state. (1=best; 25=average):

  • 39th – vaccination rate
  • 17th – positive testing rate
  • 37th – hospitalization rate
  • 47th – death rate

To view the full report: https://wallethub.com/edu/safest-states-during-covid/86567

So that's not the news the people of our state want to read. Here's what is being said about the Halloween observance.

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“In general, we will likely see a lot of people participating in activities like trick-or-treating, which takes place outside. Depending on the area, some people may feel more or less comfortable with other types of activities like parties,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “The encouraging news is that experts have said outdoor Halloween activities are safe this year, so that may encourage more people to celebrate ... "

The state's health agency, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, is out with its guidance.

“It’s no secret that, during this pandemic, major holidays have led to increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC public health director. “We want to avoid that over the next few months, and that starts with keeping each other safe during Halloween through the rest of the holiday season.”

DHEC says disease spread is still at concerning levels across the state but the holiday season can be safety celebrated.

Some of its advice:

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  • Do not attend social gatherings if you have any symptoms or have tested positive in the last 10 days or if you have been exposed and instructed to quarantine in the last 14 days.
  • Wear masks, especially indoors, and practice social distancing, hand washing and limit contact with shared items at gatherings.
  • Host/attend events outdoors instead of inside when possible.
  • Wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor public spaces such as a packed football stadium.
  • Most importantly, get your COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible if you have not already done so.

After counts of COVID-19 cases spiked to nearly 40,000 the week ending Sept. 4 — the second highest count South Carolina has seen this year — numbers have been on a steady decline, with data showing 15,621 cases the week of Oct. 2.

Classify the state as safe or not, the goal is to see the numbers continue to decline. And even though images from football games and other events leave doubt as to how much people in our state and others are following advice, it is important to note guidance from DHEC is about helping, not hurting.

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So here goes. Quoting Traxler:

“Now is the time to double down on masking and vaccinations so we can continue to see our cases decline. That is how we beat this pandemic, so that we can fully enjoy our holidays and vacations with friends and family without fearing for our health and our lives.”

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