Florence hospital sees increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations as cases surge

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FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported more than 1,200 confirmed and presumptive positive COVID-19 cases Monday.

It was the highest count the state has seen since April. Most counties in South Carolina have now moved from the “low” to “moderate” transmission categories. An infectious disease specialist at McLeod Regional Medical Center said the impacts of the surge are already being felt at local hospitals.

“It was a steady decline between April and now, and now we’re seeing a steady increase,” said Ramesh Bharadwaj, McLeod medical director for infectious disease. He said the hospital had one COVID-19 patient at the beginning of July and now has 12. He said almost all the patients were unvaccinated and the majority are facing the newer delta variant of the virus.

“Of the new cases of COVID-19, 83% of them nationwide are the delta variant,” DHEC Assistant State Epidemiologist Jane Kelly said. She said the department had expected a surge following the Fourth of July holiday, but not of this size.

“The surge that we see right now, we fear may be foreshadowing an even greater surge as the year goes on” Kelly said. She said she expects the numbers to go up further as kids return to school.

“The biggest fear right now is no one wants to go back to the way we were in December and January,” Bharadwaj said. “Those were really hard months for patients and nursing staff and pretty much everyone here.” He said McLeod’s staff is not overwhelmed and he hopes it stays that way. At the peak of the pandemic, the medical center had 130 COVID-19 patients.

“If something doesn’t happen to stop the steepness of this curve, they are going to get overwhelmed,” Kelly said.

Kelly and Bharadwaj stressed the importance of distancing and wearing a mas in crowded areas. They blame low vaccination rates for the surge. About half of eligible South Carolinians have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

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