HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — COVID-19 case counts in South Carolina have increased in recent weeks, while at the same time deaths and hospitalizations have dropped or leveled.
The state’s seven-day average case count was below 800 on June 12 before swelling to around 1,700 cases the following week. There were five deaths for the week related to COVID-19, a 33% drop from the week before, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control website.
While case counts and percent positivity have increased, local hospitals have not seen hospitalizations increase at matching levels.
“We have tons of critical patients,” said Mary Scott, the Grand Strand Medical Center director of infection prevention. “Our ICUs are full, but they’re just not COVID related.”
Scott said the number of COVID-19 patients at Grand Strand Medical Center has leveled off in teens for the past month. She said most of the hospital’s COVID-19 patients are 65 and older, and manage to avoid lengthy hospital stays and death.
“We haven’t had anyone on a [ventilator] in quite some time,” Scott said.
Gayle Resetar, Tidelands Health’s chief operating officer, echoed Scott. She said the hospital is not seeing the increasing case counts turn into mass hospitalizations like in some past increases. Resetar said cases are not as severe — likely because of treatments available like Paxlovid and monoclonal antibodies that have contributed to diminishing hospitalizations.
“It’s keeping people from getting really severely ill,” Resetar said. “You also have higher booster number rates, so again people are getting less sick.”
There are only three people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Tidelands Health. Conway Medical Center had four patients hospitalized with COVID-19 Wednesday afternoon.
McLeod Health said “[it], like other hospital systems throughout the state, is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 patients throughout our hospitals,” a statement sent to News13 read. “Hospital capacity and census statistics are fluid numbers that change frequently throughout the course of the day.”
DHEC lists six South Carolina counties as having “high” rates of COVID-19, meaning that the areas have test positivity rates higher than 10%. Horry and Marlboro counties are on that list with rates of 26% and 14%, respectively.
Brannon Traxler, DHEC’s public health director, recommends indoor mask usage in the counties with “high” rates of COVID-19.
“We just need to continue these preventative measures and use good judgment so that we can make it out of this recent surge with as little damage as possible,” Traxler said in a Wednesday media briefing.
She said the state as a whole is “on the right track.”
“For practical purposes in South Carolina, I think that we are at the endemic point, recognizing, however, that there could always be a very significant variant that comes and that we still need more people vaccinated to really prevent that sort of situation from having an impact on us,” Traxler said.
About 63% of those eligible in South Carolina have at least one dose of the vaccine.
Doctors and medical professionals warned that COVID might be here to stay.
“We’re gonna have to coexist and be smart,” Resetar said.