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Upstate hospital leaders plead with communities to take immediate steps as COVID-19 surges

Monday, December 21, 2020

UPSTATE, S.C.—Leaders at all five Upstate healthcare systems are calling on the community to take immediate measures to assist them in combating the COVID-19 surge underway. The officials expressed deep concern with the growing number of COVID-19 infections after Thanksgiving, especially because the next holiday is upon us. Unless the community takes immediate steps to stop the spread, an even higher surge is expected following this holiday season.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), COVID-19 infections in the Upstate are skyrocketing and continue to outpace all other South Carolina regions. Statewide, COVID-19 new infections have topped more than a 1,000 for the 34th consecutive day – growing to more than 2,500 new infections each day for the last three days, according to DHEC.

Not only are COVID-19 rates spiking, but hospitals are also seeing the usual winter-time surge of patients suffering from respiratory illnesses. Because many patients had put off care earlier in the year, hospitals are now seeing a wave of sicker patients from illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

While there is currently bed capacity for patients, there has been a sudden tightening of hospital capacity, particularly intensive care units – especially in the rural areas of the Upstate – due to the ongoing COVID-19 surge.

AnMed Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Mock said, “We are now well in the tenth month of the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime. We recognize how hard this is for everyone, especially with the holidays unfolding later this week. But we are in an escalating pandemic in the Upstate and across the country. Each of us has a responsibility to do our part to lower the spread of this disease.”

“Only gather for holiday meals if it’s a small gathering and, if at all possible, can be held outdoors with adequate social distancing. Increasingly, COVID is being spread by small indoor family gatherings. As an example, the impact of the Thanksgiving holiday is now reflected in our growing number of infections.”

Bon Secours St. Francis – Greenville Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Marcus Backstone said, "For the past several weeks, Greenville's COVID-19 trend has continued to head in the wrong direction. This recent surge is threatening to overwhelm our health care systems, both in capacity and treatment capability. Additionally, health care personnel aren’t immune to this virus, and we are seeing more of them get sick from community spread. Even those that remain healthy are feeling the strain, as they work long hours to treat the influx of new patients we’re seeing. They are tired and need your help to get the spread of this virus under control.”

Prisma Health Chief Clinical Officer for the Upstate, Dr. Wendell James said, “The COVID-19 vaccines are just now rolling out for frontline healthcare workers who deal directly with COVID-19 patients. It will be a few months before it can broadly help even those with high co-morbidities who are at especially high risk of complications. It will be spring/summer before it makes its way to the broad population. We can hopefully look forward to a more normal holiday season next year, but this year, we ask our communities take the extra steps to keep everyone safe – not just themselves and their families but our workers as well.

Always practice social distancing, masking and hand washing. Don’t travel or be in crowds if possible. If you have older relatives, talk to them now about staying safe and suggest a video call or alternate, safer approach for this holiday season.”

Self Regional Healthcare President and Chief Executive Officer James Pfeiffer said, “Widespread testing is critical to controlling the impact of this disease. There are hundreds of testing sites available across the Upstate and throughout South Carolina. We urge anyone who is symptomatic or who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 to get tested themselves. In addition, DHEC recommends routine monthly testing for anyone who is out and about in the community, even if they are asymptomatic.”

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Lombardozzi said, ”We understand the public is tired of living in this pandemic. Our healthcare team is also tired. Our hospitals are filling up, and we are imploring the community to help us during this surge. Please act responsibly by wearing your masks, washing your hands and practicing social distancing. Stay home. Like the rest of this year, this holiday season will look a little different. Celebrating virtually or with those you love at home are the safest options this winter.”

So far, 4,566 South Carolinians have died as a result of a COVID-19 infection. The coronavirus remains very active in the Upstate, across South Carolina and beyond.

The most effective ways to keep safe from the virus are simple and straightforward:
  • Maintain a distance of at least six (6) feet between you and others
  • Wear a mask or face covering when you are not able to maintain a safe distance from others, especially when indoors
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Stay home if you are sick or don’t feel well
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow

Additional precautions are especially important for those vulnerable populations at higher risk, which include those over age 65, those with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and lung conditions and compromised immune systems. These individuals should continue to stay at home and avoid close contact with others, and keep away from people who are sick.

About AnMed Health

AnMed Health is a 648-bed, not-for-profit health system serving the Upstate and northeast Georgia. The system is anchored by AnMed Health Medical Center, a 461-bed acute care hospital that has earned the prestigious Magnet® designation. The four-hospital system includes AnMed Health Women’s and Children’s Hospital, AnMed Health Rehabilitation Hospital and AnMed Health Cannon in Pickens, S.C. With more than 400 physicians and 3,700 employees, AnMed Health is Anderson County’s largest employer. Learn more about AnMed Health at AnMedHealth.org.

About Bon Secours St Francis – Greenville

Bon Secours St. Francis is part of Bon Secours Mercy Health, one of the 20 largest health systems in the United States and the fifth-largest Catholic health system in the country. The ministry’s quality, compassionate care is provided by more than 60,000 associates serving communities in Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia, as well as throughout Ireland. Bon Secours St. Francis provides compassionate medical care to thousands of area residents through Bon Secours St. Francis Downtown and Bon Secours St. Francis Eastside, as well as a network of primary and specialty care practices, and ambulatory care sites across the Greenville region. Consistent with its commitment to serve each patient with dignity, Bon Secours Mercy Health provides nearly $2 million per day in community benefit. The mission of Bon Secours St. Francis is to extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being of our communities and bring good help to those in need, especially people who are poor, dying and underserved. For more information, visit BonSecours.com.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 hospitals, 2,947 beds and more than 300 physician practice sites, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually. Its goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. For more information, visit PrismaHealth.org.

About Self Regional Healthcare

Self Regional Healthcare is a not-for-profit, regional referral hospital that provides care to residents of Greenwood, Abbeville, Laurens, Saluda, McCormick, Edgefield and Newberry counties. Services include prevention and wellness, acute care and tertiary care services including cancer care, neurosurgery, heart and vascular surgery, NICU, orthopedics and genetics. Self Medical Group is its employed physician affiliate network. For more information visit SelfRegional.org

About Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System offers a full spectrum of services through six hospital campuses: Spartanburg Medical Center, Spartanburg Medical Center—Mary Black Campus, Pelham Medical Center, Cherokee Medical Center, Spartanburg Hospital for Restorative Care and Union Medical Center. Spartanburg Regional also includes Ellen Sagar Nursing Center and Woodruff Manor. Spartanburg Regional provides unparalleled cancer care through Gibbs Cancer Center, with locations in Spartanburg, Greer, Union and Gaffney. The multidisciplinary Medical Group of the Carolinas has more than 400 physicians across Upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina. Spartanburg Regional employs more than 9,000 associates. For more information, visit SpartanburgRegional.com.

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