Dr. Bell: South Carolina could see 3,000 more COVID-19 deaths by April if no precautions taken

She said there could be fewer deaths if people wear their masks and socially distance

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) says it could be months until all South Carolinians get a vaccine.

Until then, he urges everyone to continue wearing masks and socially distancing whenever possible.

DHEC says more than 2,000 South Carolinians have tested positive for COVID-19 in each of the last six days, and State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell says those numbers could be even more grim if South Carolinians don’t practice social distancing.

“From the end of November until the beginning of April, an additional 3,000 more South Carolinians may die if we don’t do something differently,” Dr. Bell said in a press conference Wednesday.

In the last week, more than 13,000 South Carolinians have tested positive for COVID-19, and hospitals are slowly filling up to capacity.

DHEC says there are more than 1,100 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds, numbers not seen since the surge in July.

However, Dr. Bell says up to 1,000 lives could be saved if people put on their masks and avoid large crowds.

“If we take these measures and adopt these measures and practice them consistently and routinely, we won’t see these additional surges, we can get ahead of this pandemic while we wait for the promise of the vaccine,” Dr. Bell said.

Once the FDA approves an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine, South Carolina could expect to receive up to 300,000 doses by the end of the year.

Frontline health care workers and those living and working in long-term care facilities will be among the first to get vaccinated.

Gov. McMaster says until everyone can get a vaccine, he urges everyone to be mindful of others and do what they can to keep each other safe.

“I want to caution everyone that this will be a slow process all over the country. Most South Carolinians won’t be vaccinated for months, so we’ve got to keep our guard up. Now’s not the time to let our guard down,” Gov. McMaster said Wednesday.

Gov. McMaster also said he does not plan on implementing any restrictions like a curfew or a mask mandate despite the rising numbers, saying South Carolinians know what to do in order to keep themselves and others safe.

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