Skip to main content

Greenville Business Magazine

Upstate Hospital Leaders Plead with Public to Take Action as Covid-19 Surges

Dec 21, 2020 03:52PM ● By David Dykes

By Liv Osby

Representatives of five Upstate hospitals joined together Monday to plead with the public to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the pandemic continues to surge in the region.

Hospitalizations have doubled in recent weeks, they said, and with Christmas and New Year’s still ahead, they fear they will be overwhelmed.

“We’re at that point where our hospitals are full and it’s straining our capacity to provide care to patients, Covid and non-Covid,” said Dr. Marcus Blackstone, chief clinical officer for Bon Secours St. Francis - Greenville. 

“We’ve all already extended our ability to increase bed capacity, but there is a limit and we’re pushed up against that limit now,” he added. “We are literally begging you to help us as a community. We don’t want to get to the point where patients show up and we don’t have anywhere to put them.”

Dr. Wendell James, Prisma Health’s chief clinical officer for the Upstate, said the hospitals are dealing with extremely high levels of the virus.

“The rate of rise in the Upstate is significantly higher than anywhere else in the state, putting a strain on every system,” he said. “And we are all extremely concerned that if we see the rate of rise continue to go up, as rapid and as high as we’re seeing right now, it doesn’t take long to totally consume the capacity.” 

Dr. Robert Mock, chief medical officer for AnMed Health in Anderson, said all the hospitals are stretched to capacity. 

“We are tight on beds, certainly tight on staff, nurses especially,” he said. “But this can be improved if people in the community change the way they manage their activities.”

South Carolina recorded 255,210 confirmed cases and 4,587 deaths as of Monday, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. The largest number of cases continues to be in the Upstate.

Blame for the latest surge was placed on the failure of many people to follow public health guidelines, such as wearing a mask and avoiding large groups. But cases are even increasing as a result of small indoor family gatherings, like those over Thanksgiving, they said.

“It doesn’t surprise us why we have the numbers we do. It’s pretty obvious why this has happened,” Blackstone said. “There’s a segment of the population that is either tired of Covid, as we all are, and said I’m just not going to do this.”

Dr. Christopher Lombardozzi, chief medical officer for Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, said the fact that the five systems made an appeal jointly for the first time indicates the seriousness of the situation. 

“We’re seeing higher and higher highs each and every day … and we don’t see any decline any time soon,” he said. “It puts an enormous stress on all of us.”

Statewide, there have been more than 1,000 cases for 34 consecutive days, growing to more than 2,500 a day in the last three days, according to DHEC. The positivity rate is 22.4 percent.

But Greenville County's seven-day average rate was 30.2 percent on Dec. 19, while Anderson County's was 30.7 and Spartanburg County's was 29.5. 

James said that vaccines are just now rolling out to providers and it will be several months before the general population can be vaccinated.

“We are dealing with record numbers. We’ve done many things to increase capacity, as much as we can do,” he said. “We need the partnership of the community to help us steer through these last few months until we can get this under control.”

Medical officials called on the public to avoid gatherings, do things outdoors when possible, practice social distancing, avoid traveling, and above all, to wear a mask – all measures that work.

“If we have big families get together, we know what’s going to happen. We’ll have more positive cases, more hospitalizations, and unfortunately, that leads to more deaths,” Lombardozzi said. “Please, please, please don’t do it.”

“I’ve seen first-hand some of the regret on the faces of families who had no symptoms when they gathered, but spread it to loved ones,” said Dr. Matthew Logan, chief medical officer at Self Regional Hospital.

“You don’t want to be the people who look back on Christmas 2020 with regret about what we could have done.”