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Ashley Griffith, a registered nurse, is the first volunteer to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine at Tidelands Health in Murrells Inlet. There are about 975 doses for the hospital front-line workers given on a voluntary basis. While the staff is optimistic about the vaccine, they say they will remain vigilant by continuing to wear masks and practice social distancing until the vaccine is widely available to limit the spread of COVID-19. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

As COVID-19 cases slightly rise in Horry County, local hospitals are implementing more measures to help combat the spread of the virus.

Tidelands Health announced Monday it was opening a third temporary respiratory clinic in Myrtle Beach to meet the demand.

“The significant spread of COVID-19 in our region has placed a tremendous burden on our community’s emergency departments,” Tidelands's Chief Operating Officer Gayle Resetar said in a statement Monday. “These clinics provide a convenient alternative for patients with respiratory symptoms who need care but who are not experiencing a medical emergency.”

The news comes a week after Tidelands opened two respiratory clinics, one in Murrells Inlet and the other in Georgetown, on Aug. 16. In first week of operation, Tidelands said the two temporary clinics treated over 330 patients.

“The temporary clinics are helping patients easily access the care they need and, at the same time, are relieving some of the pressure our ERs are experiencing during this COVID-19 spike,” Resetar said.

Conway Medical Center restricted it's visitation policy, the hospital announced Monday. Starting Tuesday, visitation hours will be between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and no visitors under the age of 16 are allowed unless it is an end-of-life situation, CMC announced. COVID-19 patients are not allowed to have visitors unless it is an end-of-life situation. 

For inpatient and labor and delivery, each patient may have one visitor per day, unless a different visitor will be staying overnight with the patient, in which case one changeover per day will be permitted, according to CMC. Outpatient procedures may have one visitor and minor patients in pediatrics may have two visitors, both being either a parent and/or guardian.

No visitors are allowed for those in the emergency department except for elderly patients requiring assistance, minor patients (parents/guardians permitted), and end-of-life situations.

Visitors will be screened at the entry way, with screening questions being posted at checkpoint, the hospital announced. A screening staff member will confirm the visitor's compliance. Masks are required to be worn in all CMC buildings. No gaiters or vented masks are allowed in the hospital.

The main hospital entrance and the Medical Arts building entrance will be closed. Cancer care, wound patients and endoscopy patients can use the North Entrance from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. while all other outpatients and visitors can use the patient services entrance from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

On Monday, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 187 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in the county as of Saturday. DHEC also reported three COVID-19-related deaths as of Saturday and one probable death due to the virus.

From Sunday, Aug. 15, to Saturday, Aug. 21, Horry County saw 1,441 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — a slight increase from the week prior, DHEC data shows. Over 650 of those 1,441 cases were reported between Thursday, Aug. 19, and Saturday, Aug. 21, according to DHEC data.

DHEC also reported that from Aug. 8 to Aug. 14, there were 16 COVID-19 confirmed cases and probable deaths — the most in the state during that timeframe. 

With the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and a growing concern over the delta variant, local hospitals are doing everything they can to ensure they can care for all patients, as well as those infected with COVID.

According to Tidelands spokesperson Dawn Bryant, the hospital is currently at 113% capacity, with its ICU unit at 106% capacity. Currently, the hospital is treating 51 COVID-positive patients. Of those 51 patients, 11 are in ICU and 7 are on ventilators. Bryant said that only four of the 51 patients are fully vaccinated and none of those four patients are in ICU or on a ventilator.

Three patients died from COVID-19 between Aug. 19 and Aug. 22, according to Bryant, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths at Tidelands Health to 14 since the beginning of August. There was only one COVID-19 death at Tidelands Health in June and July combined.

Allyson Floyd with Conway Medical Center said that CMC is currently at 72% capacity but that number fluctuates consistently throughout the day based on patient volumes.

According to Floyd, CMC currently has 48 COVID-positive patients, 18 of whom are in ICU and 8 on ventilators. Since Thursday, Aug. 19, CMC has had a daily average of 44 hospitalized patients with COVID, according to data from CMC.

Of the 48 COVID-positive patients, 44 are unvaccinated, 3 are fully vaccinated and one is partially vaccinated, Floyd said, adding the vaccinated patients are much less sick than the unvaccinated. Floyd said almost all vaccinated patients have been over the age of 70 with other chronic illnesses while some were admitted for non-COVID illnesses or injuries and were asymptomatic but tested positive upon admission.

As of Thursday, 662 of Horry County's 704 hospital beds were occupied, according to DHEC. Of those 662, 179 were occupied by patients who have COVID-19. DHEC also reports that 97 of the county's 99 ICU beds are occupied, 45 of those being occupied by COVID-19 patients. DHEC also reports that 32 of the 145 ventilators in the county are being used, with 17 being used by COVID-19 patients.

Reach Ian Livingston Brooking at 843-248-6882 for any story ideas or news happening in your area.

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