CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A doctor and South Carolina native who made history in 2013 at MUSC as its first African American woman anesthesiologist, says frustration is making people lower their defenses against COVID-19.
“Right now, I think people are just saying, ‘I’m tired of wearing a mask, I want to be socially active with my community and my friends and family,’” Dr. Ebony Hilton said. “'I want to out and see football game. I want to be able to go to the beach and go to cookouts.' And unfortunately, that went from us being on a lockdown to us now being active vectors and spreaders of COVID-19 amongst our community.”
Hilton, who grew up in Little Africa, South Carolina, in Spartanburg County, is a practicing physician and associate professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Hilton said the state’s daily percent-positive rate, which indicates the percentage of tests conducted over the past 24 hours whose results indicate a positive response for COVID-19, is too high.
“Right now, South Carolina has 13.8% positivity rate and to give you a perspective, we want that to be at least below 5% to say that we are kind of in a good space of containing this,” she said.
The 13.8% was reported by the Department of Health and Environmental Control on Tuesday. Wednesday’s report showed a 17% positive rate.
On news of a potential vaccine, she says it will not be an absolute cure.
“We need to see how long these antibodies actually stay within your system,” Hilton said. “Is it on the scale of a year, like with our flu vaccine? Or when we get the typical COVID-19 with these patients that have been infected, will we see they only have antibodies in their systems for six to eight weeks?”
The answer to those questions may require booster vaccinations, she said.
“Let’s say you get a vaccination in March, will you have to get another vaccination by august to maintain this immunization? We don’t know,” she said.
She also urged people to protect themselves, warning that you may not see the signs and symptoms that a person you are close to is infected.
“They may not have a cough, they may not have a fever, they may not be complaining of chest pain or headache or loss of taste and smell,” Hilton said. “But that virus is still very much present within their body.”
Hilton decided at age 8 that she wanted to become a doctor. From that day on, her mother called her “Dr. Hilton.”
Hilton earned her M.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2008, after graduating magna cum laude from the College of Charleston with a triple major in biochemistry, molecular biology and inorganic chemistry. She completed her anesthesiology residency at MUSC, and was awarded a fellowship in critical care medicine at the university.
Hilton and her consulting group, GoodStock Consulting, along with LouieB & Co. Consulting, organized medical professionals and others early on in the pandemic to answer viewer questions during town halls on Facebook.