Impact of COVID-19 on state will be felt for months

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- Even though it seems like things are getting back to a sense of normalcy, you can’t hide from the impact COVID-19.

It’s been 6 months since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state, but the impact of the virus will be felt for much longer.

The state’s tourism industry felt the impact of COVID-19 before the virus even hit the state. After the reported cases here, the impact was even greater.

“By the third week of April, we were bottomed out below 20% statewide. That’s the worst. I’ve never seen it that low in my entire life in the hospitality industry,” explained Duane Parrish, the director of the Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Hotel occupancy is now in the 40%-50% range, but South Carolinians in the tourism and hospitality industry are still out of work.

Parrish continued, “We have 4x the unemployment than any other industry in our state. We are the slowest to recover. Restaurants were hit the hardest, hotels right after that. And as hotels go, so do retail and attractions.”

The state’s hospital system also felt the impact of the pandemic. Hospitals had to limit operations and focus on COVID-19.

Melanie Matney with the SC Hospital Association recapped some of the early challenges. “We encountered more challenges than we even anticipated in terms of staffing and staff getting sick.”

2 dozens hospitals at one point had more than 90% of its hospital beds occupied. That number has now dropped to about a handful of hospitals. But with the fall and winter approaching, hospitals are on standby for added obstacles.

Matney added, ” Throw in the fact that there could be a hurricane and evacuation off the coast it gets very complicated very quickly.”

The SC Hospital Association is predicting a $3 billion loss in hospital revenue from the purchase more of PPE and having to suspend billable services like surgeries, a move that will have lasting impacts on South Carolinians and the hospitals that will care for them.

“Many people delayed care that they probably should have gotten, but hospitals were delaying procedures or patients didn’t want to go outside of their home. We’re going to see the impact of delayed medical care for quite a long time,” continued Matney.

A senate finance committee met Tuesday afternoon to talk about the state’s budget and the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s finances.

The tourism industry is expecting to see a 50% decrease in revenue this year. SC Hospital Association is predicting a $3 billion loss in revenue for the state’s hospitals.

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