Health experts predict record highs of COVID-19 hospitalizations to continue into 2021

Health experts predict record highs of COVID-19 hospitalizations to continue into 2021
Over the last 30 days, DHEC data shows that the number of hospitalizations went from 980 to over 2,000. (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The final day of 2020 marked another day of record-breaking hospitalizations for those battling COVID-19 in South Carolina.

The state topped 2,000 hospitalizations for the second day in a row on Thursday, with 2,025 people hospitalized with the virus.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s data shows the number of hospitalizations per day has more than doubled since Thanksgiving.

Melanie Matney, the president of the South Carolina Hospital Association, said hospitals predict the upward trend to only continue into the new year.

“My bets would be on that we are going to enter 2021 with record highs of utilization, the number of hospitals over 90% capacity, and the percent of beds that are in use in hospitals,” Matney said.

Over the last 30 days, DHEC data shows the number of hospitalizations went from 980 to over 2,000.

“If you look at reports of the percent of beds occupied, that’s fairly static and represents our ability to add beds as needed,” said University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health Biostatistician Stella Self. “But the overall number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized is steadily climbing.”

Matney said 83% of hospital beds are filled across the state right now, with 19 hospitals facing over 90% capacity on Thursday.

As of Thursday, Lexington County hospitals were at the highest occupancy in the Midlands with 90% occupancy, with other counties, such as Richland County, at 73% occupancy.

“The number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients across Prisma Health is spiking,” a Prisma Health spokesperson said in a statement. “There is currently bed capacity for patients, but there has been a sudden tightening of hospital capacity, particularly intensive care units, that we are able to manage, so far. Not only are COVID-19 rates spiking, but hospitals are also seeing the usual winter-time surge of patients suffering from respiratory illnesses.”

“We monitor the number of intensive care unit beds,” South Carolina Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said. “But we are looking at the fact that a good portion of those beds are occupied by people with COVID.”

Health experts called on residents to take extra precautions for the New Year’s holiday, in an effort to help hospitals keep the numbers down.

“The big message here is that we are almost through this. We’re almost through this. I can see the light. I know our health care workers can see the light. Hopefully, you can see the light. We are almost there, but we aren’t there yet,” Matney said.

Matney said the vaccine is a source of hope for healthcare workers.

DHEC Interim Director Dr. Brannon Traxler gave an update on the vaccine rollout on Thursday saying 40,000 frontline workers and long-term care facility residents and staff have now received the vaccine.

She said, right now, South Carolina is ahead of the national vaccination rate; however, it will most likely take until February to vaccinate the majority of those in group 1A of the vaccine.

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