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DHEC’s Food Safety Team Recognized as Outstanding Community Leader of 2021

The SC Restaurant & Lodging Association (SCRLA) recently presented DHEC with the Outstanding Community Leader Award. 

During the 68th Annual Stars of the Industry Awards Luncheon, the agency’s food safety team was recognized for our collaborative efforts with SCRLA while navigating the pandemic. 

“The restaurant industry is a valued part of our community both for employees and consumers,” said Sandra Craig, Director for the Division of Food and Lead Risk Assessments. “Our team has worked diligently and in innovative ways to ensure food safety compliance during this unprecedented time. We are honored by this recognition as well as the partnership we have with the SC Restaurant and Lodging Association.” 

In response to COVID-19 and for the safety of DHEC employees, clients, and the public, the food safety team: 

  • Helped develop guidance for restaurant reopening; 
  • Implemented virtual inspections; and  
  • Assisted in developing and launching the Palmetto Priority Seal of Commitment. 

“The professional and technical support in writing the Restaurant Reopening Guidance documents that preceded FDA and NRA guidance helped get our industry the information needed to re-open safely,” stated the email informing DHEC of the honor. “Establishing the Virtual Food Safety Check and transitioning to the Limited Scope inspection ensured compliance and customer safety. And, your team’s professional assistance helped in developing and launching the Palmetto Priority Seal of Commitment, again, before any other state or national program was launched.” 

As of Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, the team has completed 24,793 virtual inspectionsThe Palmetto Priority Seal is a program that allows restaurants to verify that they have taken specific protective actions to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

DHEC Recognizes Alzheimer’s and Dementia Staff Education Week

DHEC recognizes Alzheimer’s and Dementia Staff Education Week by highlighting the importance of the training and education of the exceptional staff that care for patients all across South Carolina, including in nursing homes, community residential care facilities, and providers, such as in-home care providers and home health agencies. DHEC’s Healthcare Quality regulates 207 facilities that offer memory care services.   

Providers and staff at Alzheimer’s care facilities are always learning as much as possible on how to both better prevent and improve treatments for dementias, but they have  also been faced with the new challenge of educating themselves on COVID-19 infection control and prevention. These individuals have had to quickly adapt to evolving requirements and recommendations regarding physical contact, visitors, and daily routines for patients.  

Changes to routines, use of unfamiliar personal protective equipment (PPE), and disruption to daily schedules are enough to confuse anyone, but Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are at an increased risk of depression and worsening behavioral changes, such as agitation, aggression, and wandering.  

DHEC is proud of the amazing providers and staff at these facilities who have helped make these new transitions easier for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, while still prioritizing their treatments and care. We have witnessed families and caregivers working with providers and Alzheimer’s care facility staff to develop new ways to improve the mental health of their loved ones suffering from dementias as well as their physical health.  

While adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 Guidance for Caregivers of People Living with Dementia in Community Settings and Considerations for Memory Care Units in Long-Term Care Facilitiesthese staff members also benefit from the general public learning more about prevention and warning signs of dementias. Healthcare Quality team members have helped answer questions memory care staff may have concerning such guidance.  

DHEC celebrates these individuals and strongly encourages the community to continue to learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia in order to help improve lives. 

Know the Signs  

Besides celebrating the individuals that care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, DHEC’s Healthcare Quality wants you to know the onset signs of such healthcare concerns. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, some signs and symptoms that could indicate the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s may include: 

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life 
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems 
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks 
  • Confusion with time or place 
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships 
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing 
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps 
  • Decreased or poor judgment 
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities 
  • Changes in mood and personality 

Upon receiving a diagnosis, caregivers and their loved ones are faced with a long list of questions. How long until the disease progresses? Can I afford long-term care for my loved one? How can I anticipate their needs?  

Now facing the reality of living with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, new concerns and fears start to emerge as well. It is due to the industrious efforts and ongoing education of providers and staff at Alzheimer’s care facilities and in the community that these patients can be cared for with the utmost respect, knowledge, and safety.

DHEC Recognizes American Hearth Month in February #OurHearts

February is often associated with hearts and love, celebrating Valentine’s Day. Though we support showing your loved ones how much you care, we also support showing yourself some love by caring for your heart!

Heart disease was the number one cause of death in South Carolina in 2017-2019. To recognize American Heart Month, DHEC’s Healthcare Quality has put together a list of ways you can love your heart and be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.  

Aerobic exercise, otherwise known as “cardio”, is used to strengthen heart and blood vessels, improve oxygen flow, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made it difficult to incorporate exercise into a daily routine. With gym closings and an at-home gym equipment shortage, many are finding creative ways to still give their heart the care it needs through exercise.  

Below are some ideas if you do not have access to a gym or equipment: 

  • Body weight aerobics like squats, burpees, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups and more
  • Utilizing stairs for a cardiovascular workout
  • Going outdoors for a walk or run
  • Dancing 

Exercise isn’t the only solution to maintaining a healthy heart. 

Stress management is a tool that many often overlook as a preventative measure to declining heart health. Chronic stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors to cope such as smoking, overeating, and heavy alcohol consumption.  

COVID-19 is a chronic stressor all of us have had to endure this past year. Visit this link for more information on how to manage stress during the pandemic. You may also visit DHEC’s Worksite Wellness and Safety page for health-related tips, and for resources coping with the mental and emotional strain of COVID-19, you can check out the agency’s Mental Health Resources page for employees.  

Acute stress, stress that is short-term, can lead to a rise in blood pressure and heart rate. Managing stress can come in many forms. Most people would think of a vacation first, which is a great way to decompress. However, due to travel restrictions from COVID-19, alternatives are needed.  

Below are some ideas to help you brainstorm ways you may want to try and relieve stress: 

  • Volunteering  
  • Laughing  
  • Painting, drawing, making music, etc.  
  • Exercising (double the benefit if this is a stress reliever for you) 
  • Reading (you can check out books for free from a local library) 
  • Meditation 
  • Keep a daily journal 

For more information on how to stay heart healthy, visit heart.orgor the CDC 

During the month of February, DHEC hopes that one of the acts of love you show is one to yourself and your heart. By committing to leading a healthier lifestyle and managing stress in healthier ways, we can fight the statistic of heart disease being the number one cause of death in South Carolina.  

February 2 is World Wetlands Day; SPOTLIGHT: Cathedral Bay Heritage Preserve

February 2 is World Wetlands Day, and it’s a great occasion to learn about South Carolina’s beautiful wetlands and their importance. DHEC works with other agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), to help protect wetlands across our state. 

Wetlands are vegetated aquatic ecosystems that include areas such as Carolina bays, marshes, and swamps. There are approximately 4.1 million acres of wetlands in South Carolina, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  

Wetlands are also home to reptile and amphibian populations as well as rare plants. In addition to being a haven for wildlife, the watery environments provide safety and health benefits to communities in the state by reducing flooding as well as cleaning and replenishing water supplies. 

This year, the Environmental Affairs Team would like to highlight Cathedral Bay Heritage Preserve.Also known as Chitty Bay or Chitty Pond, it is almost a pure stand of Pond Cypress.

 

Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service (https://www.fws.gov/southeast/charleston/coastal-program/)

The trees have wide buttressed bases, an adaptation to saturated and flooded soils. Looking off into the distance from within the bay, these majestic trees appear closer together as they recede into the distance, bringing to mind the view one might have standing inside a towering cathedral among the columns supporting its roof and within its buttressed walls. 

Managed by the SCDNR through the Heritage Trust Program, this property in Bamberg County is a type of wetland known as a Carolina Bay. These wetlands get their name because the vast majority of these occur in North and South Carolina and due to their abundance of bay trees.   

Besides serving as a refuge for many rare plants and wildlife, Carolina Bays share distinctive features, including an elliptical or oval shape and parallel orientation with one another along a northwest to southeast axis. There has been much debate about the origin of these features over the years, but recent work suggests they are relict thermokarst lakes, which develop by thawing of frozen ground, with subsequent modification by wind and waves.   

Healthcare Quality’s Student Internship Program: 2021 Applications Open March 1

In Summer 2020, Healthcare Quality hosted two interns, Amaya Benson and Maya Bougebrayel, who were able to support, shadow and work with four bureaus and two offices within Healthcare Quality. The interns gained invaluable experiences in many different areas throughout the six weeks of the program as Healthcare Quality continued to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and a new hurricane season. As Healthcare Quality makes way for its upcoming 2021 student internship program with applications being accepted starting March 1, 2021, we asked our two recent interns to describe their time spent with DHEC and what the internship program meant to them.

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