Surgeries Rescheduled as Two SC Hospitals Over Capacity
A South Carolina health system is rescheduling surgeries and reassigning nurses after two of its hospitals topped 100% capacity as the delta variant spurred a new wave of coronavirus cases in the state.
Tidelands Health is also opening two temporary clinics to treat patients with COVID-19-like symptoms, a move aimed at bringing down emergency department volumes, the coastal hospital system said in a statement Friday.
The hospital system in the state's Grand Strand had no COVID-19 patients on June 30. But by Thursday, 43 people were hospitalized with the virus, a surge that has forced Tidelands to deploy the emergency mitigation strategies.
"Our region is back in a place we'd hoped to never see again," Tidelands CEO Gayle Resetar said. "Our friends and neighbors are getting sick at an alarming rate, and our health care professionals are shouldering the burden."
Elsewhere in the state, hospitals are limiting visitors and entire high school football teams are being quarantined, as schools newly reopened for the fall semester are already grappling with outbreaks.
In Pickens County, school board members called an emergency session Friday, with 534 students and 28 staff members quarantined two weeks into the school year. Kershaw County School District, which also began classes last week, had already quarantined 701 of its 11,033 students by Friday.
Some local governments have reinstated mask requirements in city buildings. But school districts themselves are unable to do the same, as a budget proviso that went into effect July 1 prohibits South Carolina educational institutions from using appropriated funds to mandate masks.
Coronavirus cases are soaring toward rates not seen since the height of the pandemic last winter, before vaccines became widely available. On Friday, health officials confirmed 3,585 new cases and 15 deaths, and total daily case counts have risen above 2,000 for the last 12 days.
State health officials offered a bleak outlook earlier this week as they urged residents to get vaccinated against the virus, noting that breakthrough cases remain uncommon and the vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are now occurring among the unvaccinated.
Just 45.5% of eligible South Carolinians — about 1.9 million people — were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. There are 8,352 people now getting the shots each day, per data compiled over the last week.
DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer said Thursday that the health agency is working to make the vaccine available in every primary care practice in the state and will soon offer booster shots for the immunocompromised.
Follow AP's coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.