- Associated Press - Monday, July 13, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A hospital system in South Carolina is suspending elective surgeries due to increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients that officials say are straining staff and other resources.

Effective Tuesday, officials with Roper St. Francis in Charleston said that procedures that aren’t time-sensitive would be put on hold across its four facilities to free up staff for an “unrelenting flood” of patients needing treatment for COVID-19.

In all, 131 patients who had become ill after contracting the coronavirus were being treated at the hospital’s facilities, representing more than a third of all of Roper’s inpatient care.

Emergency surgeries will still be performed as needed, hospital officials said.

Earlier this year, Gov. Henry McMaster asked that elective surgeries be called off across the state for several weeks in an effort to keep hospital resources available for pandemic response if needed. Those procedures were allowed to begin anew this spring, but McMaster has said he could move to shut them down again statewide if needed.

The decision comes amid a resurgence of confirmed cases across South Carolina, where state officials said there had been 58,003 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Carolina as of Monday afternoon. Experts say official counts likely only capture a portion of those who have been infected.

At least 961 people in South Carolina who contracted the virus have died.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

As of Monday, there were 1,488 hospital beds in use by patients who have either tested positive or are suspected to have COVID-19, according to South Carolina’s public health department, and 205 of those patients were on ventilators.

Last week, officials with the state hospital association said hospitals would likely have to implement a medical surge plan to add 3,000 more patient beds in places like hotels and gymnasiums, if South Carolina’s coronavirus infection and hospitalization numbers continue rising at their current rates.

In an effort to make testing more available in the coastal area he represents, Lowcountry state Sen. Tom Davis wrote to state officials on Monday, asking that resources from two military installations in Beaufort County “be deployed to assist state and local officials with drive-thru testing.”

Also Monday, the Palmetto State Teachers Association wrote to McMaster, asking that recommendations on how schools should approach a return to in-person instruction be clearly communicated to districts, and that state lawmakers “fully fund that which is required to keep everyone safe so that we might deliver an invigorating pedagogy in a stable environment.”


Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP


Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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