Prisma Health officials are warning that Greenville County is “dangerously close” to an “out of control” surge in COVID-19 patients if the community doesn’t step up to contain the virus, wear masks and socially distance by avoiding large crowds.
“This can get exceptionally ugly in a hurry,” Dr. Wendall James, the COVID-19 incident commander for Prisma Health Upstate, said at a news conference on Friday, July 17, one day after South Carolina surpassed 1,000 coronavirus deaths.
Meanwhile, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients at Prisma Health Upstate has climbed from approximately 40 in early June to 172 on July 16, according to information distributed at the briefing.
Held in front of Falls Park, the news conference also kickstarted the city of Greenville’s public health “Mask Up. Life is Waiting” campaign.
Greenville Mayor Knox White, who hosted the news conference, praised CVS, Walgreens, Publix and Harris Teeter for requiring customers to wear masks in their stores and urged other big box stores to do the same.
Greenville, which has its own ordinance requiring facial coverings in grocery stores and pharmacies — the first municipality in South Carolina to pass such a measure — has already done its part, White said, though he hopes the city can do more.
“We’re just a small dot on a map of 500,000 people,” he said.
Need to find a #COVID19 testing clinic near you? DHEC’s search tool helps you locate screening and testing sites in your area.
— SCDHEC (@scdhec) July 17, 2020
Officials at the news conference also urged residents to avoid large gatherings of 25 or more people, saying that under current conditions, there’s a 99% chance that someone in the group has COVID-19.
Both White and James said masks need to be mandated by the county and the state.
“This is not a lost cause, but it will be if the community doesn’t start masking up,” James said.
If current trends continue unchecked, James warned that the Upstate’s five hospital systems could be overrun within two weeks.
“This is totally in the control of the community,” he said.