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Lowcountry hospitals change visitor, mask policies as COVID cases rise

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 1:04 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2021 at 6:29 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As cases of COVID-19 rise in the Lowcountry and elsewhere, a number of hospitals in the region have re-implemented more stringent visitor and mask policies.

South Carolina reported just under 2,400 new COVID-19 cases Monday. As cases climb, so too do hospitalizations; Roper St. Francis said it has 56 hospitalized COVID-19 patients across its network, up roughly 200% in just the past week.

Of the COVID-19 patients in Roper’s intensive care unit, not a single one was fully vaccinated, Roper’s chief physician officer Dr. Chris McLain said.

While there was some idea a post-summer-holiday surge could come about, McLain said it may be steeper than some estimates because of how transmissible the Delta variant is.

“I’m hoping it feels like a wake-up call to how really dangerous this virus is,” he said. “So it certainly doesn’t feel like a step backwards for me and what we do, we kind of had our eye on this and we’re preparing for this possibility, but I hope that the community sees this for what it is: this is a very dangerous virus, we have to take it seriously even though we’re all fatigued of all the processes that have changed over the last 18 months.”

At Roper, patients are allowed one person to accompany them, but patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are not allowed visitors.

At the Medical University of South Carolina, all employees are now required to wear masks indoors in both clinical and non-clinical settings regardless of COVID-19 immunity status.

MUSC spokesperson Montez Seabrook said in an email that as of Monday morning there have been no changes to the visitor policy yet, “but that could change in the near future.”

At Trident Medical Center and Summerville Medical Center, visitors are not allowed for patients hospitalized with COVID-19, Trident Health’s vice president of public relations Rod Whiting said Friday. Other patients are allowed one visitor at a time with case-by-case exceptions considered.

No visitors under the age of 18 are allowed.

Masks are also required at Trident’s two hospitals regardless of vaccine status unless a person is eating or drinking.

Tidelands Health’s updated guidelines took effect at 8 a.m. Friday. Under the new rules, patients at Georgetown Memorial Hospital and Waccamaw Community Hospital are allowed one adult to accompany them between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. One adult can also stay overnight.

Pediatric patients, the health system said, are allowed two adults.

COVID-19 patients are not allowed to be accompanied except in special circumstances such as end-of-life situations. Additionally, visitors are not allowed in the emergency room, but patients who need extra help may be allowed to have one adult accompany them with staff approval.

“We’ve reached a point with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in our region that we must take these additional precautions to protect our patients, team members and community,” Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health, said in a statement Thursday. “We appreciate the community’s understanding as we all double down on our efforts to stop this virus from spreading.”

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