Beaufort Co. hospitals report increase in COVID-19 cases as South Carolina reopens


BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – Beaufort County hospitals are reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases as South Carolina continues to lift restrictions.

Earlier this week, the state’s top epidemiologist said she’s more concerned about COVID-19 in the Palmetto State than ever before.

In a statement to NOW, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said they’re stressing “how critical it is for each of us to wear [a] mask, avoid group gatherings and keep six feet between us”.

For the past two weeks, we’ve seen some of our highest daily numbers of cases since the start of this pandemic, and we’ve identified certain hot spots of the state, such as Greenville, Lexington and Richland counties. We’ve seen an increase in numbers in Beaufort and Horry counties as well, though not at the same high rate as other areas. 

South Carolina DHEC

Ashley Hildreth, Corporate Director of Quality and Patient Safety Officer at Beaufort Memorial, says they’ve seen an overall increase in cases.

“We attribute the increases to a few things, including the reopening of the state; large gatherings that took place over Memorial Day, graduation parties, etc.; and a growing disregard for protective measures like social distancing and wearing a face mask,” said Hildreth.

She also says their bed utilizations are up but that is mainly due to a “resumption of surgical cases” and people feeling more comfortable accessing care.

Jeremy Clark, the CEO of Hilton Head Healthcare, says they have not seen an increase in coronavirus-related hospitalizations at their locations on Hilton Head Island and in Hardeeville.

He says the hospitals used March and April as a time to prepare and stock up on essential PPE and other equipment.

“We have practice with our ventilators. We have the ability to add ventilator capacity as well,” said Clark. “So, we really feel like we’re ready in case there is a spike in hospitalizations but we’re not seeing it at this time.”

Clark also said they are ready to add more beds if hospitalizations increase in the near future.

Officials at Beaufort Memorial also tell NOW they have seen an increase in COVID-19 patients since June 1.

As of Wednesday, Beaufort Memorial was at 61 percent bed occupancy, according to their President and CEO Russell Baxley.

“We are already anticipating a busy flu season that will likely be exacerbated by COVID, so we will continue to monitor and focus on our patients, our staff and our resources and will be prepared to change course as needed,” said Baxley.

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