Lowcountry medical expert talks COVID-19 spike, masks, schools, sports


BEAUFORT, SC (WSAV) – More than 1700 positive cases in the Palmetto state Friday, 93 of those in Beaufort County.

More than 20% of the people tested have come back positive for COVID-19.

22% of patients are from 21-30. The age group has seen a 436% increase in new cases since June 1. Another 15% 20 and younger.

But what do the numbers mean for the Lowcountry when it comes to school openings, mask mandates, and sports this fall?

Beaufort Memorial Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kurt Gambla offered some perspective on the numbers and the future.

“I think the entire country needs to be concerned and needs to hold the line at social distancing, wearing masks and things we have said from the very beginning. We need to hold strong on that and double down on it because despite what we thought was working initially, everyone is now relaxing a little bit. We are seeing the spike so it’s hard not to draw the conclusion the masking, social distancing, etc that we were doing was effective. So the fact that when we relax that is when we see the spike.”

“We are testing more individuals but when you look at the percentage of positives that are going up that’s still a positive trend line. This is not just we are testing more people so more are positive. The actual percentage of people getting affected is continuing to rise.”

“Any large groups there’s a potential someone in that group that may be infected and may be contagious and not know about it. So anywhere anyone is gathering in large groups of not wearing masks they can assume they are putting themselves in harm’s way.”

“The problem with the young age group is that so many of them get it but don’t get sick, they walk around with it and may have mild symptoms or no symptoms and that’s a problem because then they can infect everyone else.”

“You are always going to have some controversy about the masks. I think the preponderance of evidence right now and from the beginning has supported wearing masks. Masks are a slight inconvenience for people there’s close to zero data that masks have any adverse effect on our health. So I think its a small inconvenience for a huge increase in safety. I can just not imagine or justify people not wearing masks at this point.”

“The reason we do wear masks in public is so they do protect us and depending on the type of masks you are wearing even the cloth masks which is the least protective mask in public, will protect the people around you.”

“One of the most common ways this virus is transmitted is droplets. So if you are within six feet of someone coughing, sneezing, laughing, that all generate droplets. so you need to have a barrier and the mask is what provides the barrier from the droplets from getting from point a to point b.”
I think we are more toward the beginning than the end of the learning curve so things are evolving all the time so we are always rushing to keep up with what is the best evidence so its a collective hunch so we go with what do our experts think is the best information at the time and that’s what we need to formulate our base on.”

“I would say if you are completely asymptomatic and don’t need to know for sure because of potential exposure work-related and things like that that people hold off on testing. I would not at this point say we should just test everybody. Just because, because we don’t know what to do with that data for one thing.”

“It is important to get the kids back into school but I think the strong strategy behind that is we have to do what’s safe. There definitely is some evidence that kids are less contagious, kids are less susceptible, but that’s not zero so if we just open the schools let everyone come back in and don’t take the proper precautions, that is going to pour some fuel on the fire.”

“With sports especially contact sports that’s an especially tough challenge, figuring out how to do that safely.”
“One of the big strategies is distancing and if you are going to be that close even if there is a mask, there is sweat transmission, skin to skin transmission, and all those other issues. So I just don’t know how you do that safely.”

“It is a difficult balancing act because I’m an Administrator so I understand how people need to have their lives and businesses move forward. But I’m also a physician by training and the physician in me says you have to balance that with you gotta be careful and I’m always leaning more toward the side of you gotta be careful because I’ve seen up close the devastating effects of this thing when we are not careful and it gets out of control.”

“How dangerous is this condition, this virus?”
“I mean people are dying it doesn’t get much worse than that.”

Beaufort Memorial is now testing every patient that comes into the hospital for COVID-19, no matter what they are there for,

Right now Beaufort Memorial has 20 COVID-19 cases in the hospital and 3 in the ICU.

They have 29 ventilators at the ready and say the concern over a spike, and beds and facilities here and around the country is real.

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