Horry County COVID-19 hospitalizations headed in wrong direction

Grand Strand

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Hospitals in and around Horry County are seeing an increase in patients with COVID-19.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control(DHEC), Horry County’s test positivity rate over the previous two weeks was the highest in the state at 15.1%. On Friday, DHEC announced 154 confirmed cases in Horry County as of Wednesday.

At Conway Medical Center, 22 patients have COVID-19, representing an increase of 5 from Thursday.

Dr. Paul Richardson, Conway Medical Center (CMC) chief medical officer and vice president of medical education, said the number of patients with COVID-19 at CMC has more than doubled in the last few days.

“We’ve added 12 inpatients just in the last 48 hours alone,” Richardson said.

Richardson said the rise in hospitalizations is alarming.

“It raises concern that we’re back on the same track that we were several months ago,” Richardson said. “The other thing that concerns me too, and this is a fact from the front lines, is that we are seeing more young people [hospitalized].”

Nineteen of the 22 patients at CMC are unvaccinated. Richardson said low vaccination rates are contributing to this increase in hospitalizations along with people starting to let their guard down.

“[People are] a little more lax on the mask wearing,” Richardson said. “Maybe not quite using hand sanitizer like we used before. That’s exactly why with our low vaccination rates coupled with that stuff, why I believe we’ve seen this thing come roaring back.”

Tidelands Health has also seen a spike in COVID-related hospitalizations. Officials said the number of patients was in the low single digits just two weeks ago. Now, there are 27 patients across two hospitals being treated for the coronavirus, according to Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health.

“Our treatment, our protection against getting sick is in the vaccine,” Harmon said. “Of those 27 individuals I just talked to you about, only two of them have had the vaccine. The other 25 are unvaccinated.”

Harmon said that in the recent weeks Tidelands has had more people go to any one of its three walk-in clinics to get the vaccine.

“We’ve had twice as many in the past two weeks show up for vaccines,” Harmon said. “Perhaps because of the delta variant. Perhaps because of the news.”

Tidelands Health will also begin distributing vaccine doses in primary care facilities next week to anybody who signs up.

Grand Strand Health reported 33 patients currently positive for COVID-19. There were 23 patients a week ago.

With increasing hospitalizations, CMC, Tidelands, and Grand Strand Health are all putting restrictions on visitors inside their hospitals for the foreseeable future. Dr. Gerald Harmon said they had no other choice.

“We have to be prudent custodians of public health,” Harmon said. “With an increasing positivity rate, with increasing instances of hospitalizations and utilization of resources, we have to respond. That response has been, unfortunately, to mitigate potential future spread and contagion by limiting patient visitors.”

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