Conway Medical Center

Conway Medical Center in Conway on March 16, 2020. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

In the aftermath of the December holidays, hospitals across the region are seeing a major increase in COVID-19 patients.

"We have seen a spike in COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations over the past several weeks. Unfortunately, I believe we will continue to see those numbers rise as we get about two weeks out from the New Year's holiday,” said Dr. Paul Richardson, Conway Medical Center’s chief medical officer. “Right now, we have some very sick patients in our ICU with COVID-19 and these are your friends and neighbors. Our overall positivity rate for our inpatient and outpatient testing is very high, and we are seeing large numbers of people testing positive.”

Allyson Floyd with CMC said as of Friday morning that they were currently at 82% capacity, including COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

“Again, depending on patient volumes – that number rises and falls throughout the day,” Floyd said.

On Friday morning, CMC had 41 COVID-19 patients, with 13 in their intensive care unit (ICU) and six of those on ventilators. They averaged 43 inpatient positives per day this week.

According to Katie Maclay with Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, on Friday GSRMC was at 96% occupancy.

“We currently have 69 COVID-19 positive inpatients with 13 of those in ICU and 11 of those are on a ventilator,” Maclay said.

Based on their peak of 82 positive patients in-house earlier this week, Maclay said the cases at GSRMC are leveling off somewhat.

“We still expect more inpatient cases to be diagnosed post-holidays, especially amid flu season,” Maclay said, noting that she hopes that within the next few months , the vaccines that have been administered will make a positive impact.

Looking at weekly averages since June, CMC had an average of 4-6 inpatient positives per day in the month of September, moving to between 15 and 17 per day in October. November saw more of an increase, and through December they averaged between 23-35 cases per day, but this week saw a peak of 47 last Thursday.

At Tidelands Health in Murrells Inlet on Friday, 54 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, 17 of them are in the ICU and ventilator usage is at 44%, according to Dawn Bryant with Tidelands Health.

Overall hospital occupancy there Friday was at 105%, while the ICU occupancy is at 124%.

“Our hospitals are definitely experiencing a post-holiday surge of COVID-19 patients, which is expected to continue for the coming weeks,” Bryant said. “We will probably go through January and part of February with record-high hospitalizations. We haven’t seen all of the post-holiday surge yet.”

McLeod Health did not provide specific capacity numbers, but their Vice President of Communication and Public Relations Jumana Swindler said Monday that the best defense against COVID-19 is to social distance where possible, wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask in public areas.

“McLeod Health has taken extraordinary measures to plan for increased volumes and create capacity within our healthcare system. We ask that the community do their part by following the guidance of the CDC,” Swindler said.

CMC’s Richardson urged everyone to continue to use best practices and stay safe.

“Please help us and protect yourself, your family, and your friends by wearing masks, social distancing, and washing your hands,” Richardson said.

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