PICKENS COUNTY, SC (WSPA)–Pickens County is leading the state in positive COVID-19 cases per capita. Emergency management leaders said the impact in the county is at its worst, since the pandemic started.
Pickens County Emergency Services Director Billy GIbson said they’ve seen an explosion of COVID-19 emergency calls and positive cases within the last two weeks.
“Our resources are being taxed all the way from our EMS folks, all the way to the hospitals, the nurses and the doctors,” Gibson said. “As of yesterday, in that two-week period which we consider the active period, we’re closing in on 1,600 cases, and closing on 10,000 from when the pandemic actually started back in late February- early March,” he said.
Gibson said they’ve also seen record breaking numbers in COVID-19 calls in its emergency medical services division.
“We’re seeing the increase in the number of EMS calls that we’re handling that are COVID- related. Just to give you an example…near the beginning, we were averaging anywhere from 10 to 12 calls a week. Last week, we ran 56. So that tells you we’re seeing an explosion in the number of calls and the number of folks we’re treating for this disease,” Gibson said. “Most cases, folks are calling in, they’ve been diagnosed with COVID. Most of the time they’re going home and treating themselves at home, but from time to time, those symptoms become worse.”
All of this is taking a toll on hospitals that are over-run and facing shortages. EMS crews are seeing the impacts, as well.
“The other thing that we’re running into is hospitals are starting to become over-run and in a nutshell, they’re running out of room. The other side of that is, they may have room to expand, and get more beds ready, but the staff is an issue. There are only so many doctors and nurses that can go around to treat folks. So it’s basically an avalanche effect that just keeps getting bigger,” Gibson said. “Our EMS crews are pulling up to the hospital with patients and there’s just nowhere to put them. So our crews are having to help take care of those patients in the back of the ambulance until the hospital can clear a bed.”
“We’ve had a couple incidents, one in the county and one out of the county, where we transported to an out-of-county hospital, where the EMS unit was delayed for more than three hours before they could get a bed for the patient,” said Michael Marling, Pickens County EMS Director.
First responders and healthcare workers said they’re doing everything they can to treat everyone and keep people safe, but they’re pleading for you to do your part too.
“We know that there are things that can be done. Wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, just normal everyday hygiene such as washing your hands,” Gibson said. “We know we can band together to do that, and now is the time to do it.”
Right now, Pickens County Emergency Management is working with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) to develop a vaccine plan for its frontline staff. This includes EMS, firefighters, and law enforcement agencies. They’re getting things in line now, for when doses become available to them next.