As Upstate health systems reach their limits, officials warn against New Year’s Eve gatherings


GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – As Upstate health systems reach a breaking point, health and government officials are pleading with people to stay home on New Year’s Eve.

Data from Prisma Health shows Upstate Covid-19 hospitalizations are peaking higher than ever.

“Right now we are seeing nearly a 30 percent rate of infection in patients that are tested,” said Dr. Wendell James, who is the chief clinical officer for Prisma Health- Upstate. “That is astronomical.”

Leaders from Prisma Health and Bon Secours St. Francis Health System said they were on a phone call Tuesday morning with all of the Upstate’s major hospitals, and the system is reaching its limits.

“Everybody is at their capacity bed-wise,” said Dr. Marcus Blackstone, who is the Chief Clinical Officer at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System. “Everybody’s holding patients in the emergency room.”

Officials warned we still haven’t seen effects from the Christmas holiday, and they begged people to stay home New Year’s Eve.

“We asked for this several weeks ago,” James said. “We asked for it right before Christmas, and we are begging for it now.”

Staffing shortages due to the illness are straining healthcare resources. According to Prisma Health President and CEO Mark O’Halla, 263 Prisma Health team members are not working due to Covid-19, including 65 registered nurses and 14 physicians.

Over the weekend, backlash began brewing against one of the most visible new years eve events planned in Greenville, the Reedy River Grand Ball.

It was set to be held in a venue that could hold up to 700 people, which is 50 percent of capacity, as specified in the governor’s order regarding gatherings.

Christen Clinkscales used her food Instagram account to amplify frustrations with the event, including those of healthcare workers.

“They’re tired, and they’re burnt out,” she said. “And they’re really just…tired of feeling like they’re just screaming into the void and nobody was listening to them.”

Tuesday, the events’ organizers announced they would be cancelling it, saying “We heard our community speak, and we listened. Reedy River Grand Ball 2021 will be cancelled to protect the health and safety of our guests and community.”

Gov. Henry McMaster took to Twitter Tuesday to people that events can not exceed 250 people or 50 percent capacity. Events must receive approval from the Department of Commerce to host more than 250 people.

Greenville Police Chief Howie Thompson said law enforcement will be out at bars and restaurants on New Year’s Eve enforcing the governor’s order banning alcohol sales and consumption onsite after 11 p.m.

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