You can come back to watch the meeting with live updates below

SOUTH CAROLINA (WPDE) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) will hold a 30-minute statewide briefing for media to provide an update on COVID-19 and the state’s vaccine rollout efforts.

Dr. Brannon Traxler, Public Health Director, will be answering questions on the call.

You can come back to watch the meeting with live updates below.

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On Tuesday, the health agency (DHEC) made a change in South Carolina schools, to loosen who is considered a close contact. Moving forward, a student is only a close contact if they were exposed to someone with COVID who was not wearing a mask.

Today, the spokesperson for Horry County schools told me: “This change will positively impact and reduce the number of student quarantines and assist us in keeping our healthy students in school.”

Leaders could also talk about the continuing decline in COVID-19 cases and tests in South Carolina.

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DHEC public health director Dr. Brannon Traxler starts off the meeting by talking about the updated school guidance, noting that it’s different than the CDC’s recommendation. She called the previous guideline “unfair,” and said this change is to address that fairness.

She said it also promotes mask-wearing among students, to avoid a quarantine.

Talking about the winter holidays, she said DHEC advices people to wear masks, especially indoors, and host and attend events outdoors if possible. She said you should try and limit shared objects between people. She said it’s important to get fully vaccinated.

“Numbers can fluctuate” she said about the decrease in cases, and said we all must remain dedicated to getting fully vaccinated and wearing a mask to sustain the decline in cases through the winter holidays and coming months.

Someone asked how close we are to herd immunity, and Dr. Traxler said that’s still very hard to predict. As new variants arise and spread it’s not clear if prior infection will protect you against a new variant. She said vaccination totals are still coming short as well.

While cases decline, she said leaders don’t expect COVID-19 to disappear anytime soon in South Carolina.

It’s too early to assume that we’ve completely turned a corner, with declining cases she said. We’ve seen similar declines through the pandemic, followed by spikes. While we had 970 cases yesterday, she said we had 967 in late July, which was followed by a spike.

“One state, cannot end a global pandemic,” she said.

I asked Dr. Traxler about the change in K-12 schools, and she said the overall goal is to keep students and teachers in the classroom with the change.

Someone asked if kids are okay to Trick-Or-Treat this year, and Dr. Traxler said the first thing is each individual family needs to evaluate their own risks, depending on who is in their family. She said face coverings (not halloween masks) could be incorporated into a costume and make sure you disinfect, as several hands may be reaching into a bowl of candy. She said you should also stay in smaller groups.

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With the change in K-12 schools, Dr. Traxler said it falls on the responsibility of an infected person wearing a mask, and she encourages parents to have children wear a mask. She said it would keep more kids in the classroom and out of quarantine, which is the overall goal.

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