‘Feels like a gut punch’: Conway Medical Center puts COVID-19 tents back up as cases surge


CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Conway Medical Center (CMC) has put its COVID-19 tents back up as cases surge, with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reporting more than 2,500 new cases Friday.

Dr. Paul Richardson, the chief medical officer at CMC, said this week has been chaotic. The triage tents, which were taken down in May, went back up.

“I was hopeful we’d never put those things up again and you talk about disappointing,” Richardson said. “Watching those things go back up, it really broke my heart.”

According to CMC, when the tents came down in May, there were five hospitalized COVID-19 patients. As of Friday, they have 31. Of the more than 2,500 new confirmed cases, 311 of them were in Horry County — the most in the state.

“It’s bitterly disappointing,” Richardson said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It really feels like a gut punch because — really, I mean we are on a trajectory it looks like, heading back several months, almost a year ago.”

All but two of the state’s 46 counties have been moved into the high spread category, meaning the area has had more than 200 new, confirmed cases per 100,000 people over a two week period. Richardson said the majority of the people testing positive are not vaccinated.

“Now again, to be truthful about what we’re seeing, we are seeing some breakthrough infections,” Richardson said. “We knew we would. We knew we would see breakthrough infections. No vaccine is 100%. By far and away more unvaccinated people are testing positive and more unvaccinated people are for sure requiring hospitalization.”

Richardson said with the dramatic increase of cases they’re seeing and with the tents going back up, he hopes people get vaccinated.

“I would hope folks would see this and understand, what I’m telling is from the front lines,” he said. “I have no reason to lie. I hope that people hear this and think, ‘wow, maybe it’s time to get vaccinated’ and I would agree with you 100%. It is the time to get vaccinated.”

According to DHEC, 45% of people in South Carolina are fully-vaccinated.

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