Health experts have urged the Upstate community to not let its guard down against COVID-19. In a press conference on Friday, Oct. 30, officials stated that numbers were rising in the region and that members of the community must still use preventive measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Right here in Greenville County, there have been more than 17,000 confirmed and probable cases, with more than 1600 of those reported in the last two weeks,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim director of public health at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. “That means that almost 10% of the total cases during this pandemic in Greenville County have occurred just in the last two weeks span.”
Traxler went on to say that 350 Greenvillians had died from COVID-19.
Dr. Eric Ossmann, Prisma Health’s chief of emergency management, preparedness and mobile integrated health care, said that in September Prisma had about 70 patients in the hospital. Today there are 130.
“If that trajectory continues, we’re going to end up back in a situation such as we had in August, where we had a huge number of patients in the hospital, and no one wants that to happen,” he said.
Bon Secours St. Francis’ Dr. Marcus Blackstone said the health system saw a 75% increase in COVID-19 patients. “Please don’t buy into all conspiracy theories about what’s going on. We can promise you that COVID is as real as it gets,” he said.
Traxler cautioned against celebrating Halloween this weekend as usual. Traxler said safe alternatives exist such as participating in drive-thru events, haunted trails that go one direction and outdoor pumpkin patches. She also recommended handing out candy using creative methods to prevent close contact.
In order to stop the increase seen in COVID-19 cases, medical professionals said wearing a mask, social distancing, hand-washing often and limiting indoor gatherings are key. They also advised community members to get their flu shots.
“A recent study found that mask-wearing alone by 75% of the U.S. population flattened the projected incidence curve and reduced infections about 37%. So 75% of people doing effective mask-wearing brought case numbers down by 37%,” said Traxler.
Prisma’s chief clinical officer, Dr. Wendell James, said this year’s holidays will have to look different if the pandemic is to be stopped. “We have to be responsible to one another and our loved ones and make sure that because of our love for one another, we don’t spread this virus even faster,” he said.
James also cautioned against COVID-19 fatigue: “We’re all tired of COVID-19.” However, that shouldn’t be a reason to stop observing precautions against the virus, he said.
Doctors at the press conference said that they have begun working on a vaccination program for when a vaccine is available for COVID-19. “Until vaccines that prevent COVID-19 are widely available, we must all remain vigilant about doing these tools that we know are effective in slowing the spread,” said Traxler.
Greenville Mayor Knox White emphasized that in order to keep the economy in recovery, individuals have to be responsible.
“We make the choice to wash our hands, to maintain social distancing, being intentional about it, and most importantly, wearing a mask when you’re inside,” White said. “It’s our choice. We determine where the COVID goes; we determine where our economy goes.”