SCDHEC board meeting addresses coronavirus questions, announces new address database

New app for first responders during pandemic

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) - On Thursday, South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control held a board meeting.

There, officials discussed the coronavirus and the department’s response to it.

SCDHEC Physician Consultant Dr. Brannon Traxler gave an update about numbers in South Carolina.

Traxler says Wednesday marked the largest number of deaths in a day with 12 people.

She also says South Carolina is at an accelerated rate of new infections.

Last week, the average number of new cases per day was 187. The week before, it was about 90.

In the meeting, board members raised a question--is severity linked to different variations of the virus?

Dr. Traxler says data shows there are four or five variations of the coronavirus.

To give a comparison, the flu has different strains. It causes people to get infected with different versions of influenza.

According to Traxler, these variations of the coronavirus do not affect its severity. The severity of someone experiences are linked to being older and having underlying health conditions.

It could also help when it comes to getting vaccinated in the future.

”This is actually very promising," says Traxler. "If it continues to hold true when they develop a vaccine it could potentially provide longer protection compared to the flu vaccine which you have to get every year.”

Traxler says SC DHEC continues to push for people to take social distancing measures to flatten the curve.

Board members also received an update about a database for first responders. The Coronavirus pandemic forced first responders to change the way they respond to calls across South Carolina.

Now, they are getting a little extra help for their own protection.

SC DHEC is calling this new database Health Care Provider 911, or HCP 911. There are two different ways first responders can use it.

The first is an app used by first responders on the go. SCDHEC will allow officers, firefighters, deputies, etc. to access the app. The technology rolled out on Thursday at noon.

The second way to access the database is a website. Wronski says dispatchers will use the site as the first line of defense for first responders.

When a call comes in, an address is sent to first responders. When they search the address on the site. A red dot appears if someone has tested positive for coronavirus at that location.

The information is limited though. Addresses stay in the system for 14 days. First responders have to sign a data usage agreement to use the system. This helps DHEC know it is being used properly.

Wronski says he knows how much the database helps, but he still warns first responders to be careful.

”Every patient nowadays has to be treated, nowadays we don’t know how much this is spread so every patient needs to be treated as though they are infected," says Wronski.

First responders have been asking for this database for almost a month now. They say they needed it to keep their already limited personal protective equipment. Several county officials say they had not heard about the app rolling out today.

WBTV reached out to DHEC to see how they are notifying county officials. We are waiting to hear back.

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