‘Clusters’ of hospitals in SC seeing an uptick in COVID-19 patients while vaccine demand declines

VIDEO: ‘Clusters’ of hospitals in SC seeing an uptick in COVID-19 patients while vaccine demand declines

LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Two trends are concerning officials and doctors at Lexington Medical Center: an increase in patients with COVID-19 and a decrease in demand for the COVID-19 vaccine at their clinic.

According to the hospital they were caring for 39 patients with COVID-19 Friday, but in April they were treating about 20 coronavirus patients at a time.

Of those 39 patients, 35 of them have not gotten the coronavirus vaccine, three received at least one dose of the two-dose regimen, and only one was fully vaccinated.

“I’m tired. I think we all are tired. We’ve seen an increase in numbers recently in the general population and I think things are becoming more stressful for us,” Lexington Medical Intensivist Dr. Matthew Day said.

Day said the patients coming into the COVID wing of the hospital are younger than they were in previous surges.

The current average age of a COVID patient in their care is 56, but in December the average was 68 years old.

“They seem to get sicker quicker,” Day said. “Previously it used to would take a couple of days, but now when we are seeing they are getting sick immediately. A lot of them are being sent to the ICU straight at the start. For some reason or another the severity seems to be worse than the spikes we saw in January and the new year,” he added.

Day also said his patients don’t know how they contracted the virus, but he believes some of them were infected at large gatherings.

“Unfortunately, we are probably going to be faced with more and increasing cases… whether it’s over Easter or some another event suddenly their whole family has it and it stresses the need to continue to wear a mask even though we are so fatigued with it,” he said

The South Carolina Hospital Association says what’s happening at Lexington medical isn’t a statewide problem yet, but it isn’t unique to just Lexington.

“There’s the uptick in hospitalizations in clusters throughout South Carolina. A cluster in the Midlands area, a cluster in the Upstate, and even as far as one in the Lowcountry. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but we are paying attention to it and the ramifications of it,” said SCHA Director of Disaster Preparedness John Williams.

Williams said it’s too early to say if the increase is due to Easter and spring break and said any potential hospitalization spikes from those events would happen in about two weeks.

To prevent his hospital and others from filling up, Day hopes more people decide to get vaccinated.

Lexington Medical Center’s vaccination clinic with Brookland Baptist Church has started accepting walk-ins to make up for the dip in demand and make it easier for people to access the vaccine.

An official at the clinic said they were busier in recent days than they have been in the past couple of weeks, but they could still be vaccinating 500 to 600 more people a day then they have been.

Day says changing that trend will save lives and help the state get back to normal.

Recently, he was treating a woman with severe respiratory distress whose husband also was being treated for coronavirus two doors down from her.

He said he is worried he will see more cases like this.

“Fighting this fight for those people who are fighting for their life…it’s taxing and it’s tiresome and you do that room after room for 12 hours,” Day said.

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