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Phoebe Sumter Medical Center CEO warns of current COVID-19 trends

Brandi Lunneborg, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center’s CEO brought the community an update on our COVID-19 status Friday afternoon. “Nationally we have reached a serious point. There are 14 million cases across the country, and we are adding a million a week….we have already been seeing an increase of cases in Georgia and here in Sumter County.” Georgia is seeing a rate of 4000 a day which is the same rate as was being diagnosed during July.  Lunneborg reports Sumter County is trending high compared to previous rates. Over the past 9 days, 43 cases have been diagnosed. This is a significant increase as the 30-day reporting period prior held 50 cases and the reporting period twice removed indicated 26 new cases over 30 days.  These numbers are putting Sumter County back on track to hit numbers that we had previously seen during a surge. Although compliance with simple precautions have been followed, the increase in cases indicate there is room for improvement. Masks, social distancing and basic hand hygiene are simple individual behaviors that can increase our ability to recover and prevent the spread. Lunneborg reports PSMC is home to “health-care heroes.” Our health care professionals are reporting this as a new and demanding experience, unlike anything they have experienced in their careers.

Lunneborg also warns of a “perfect storm.” Hospital admissions are naturally high this time of year with seasonal illnesses, however with COVID-19 threatening they are concerns over hitting capacity and experiencing a shortage in health care. Additionally, just as those who don’t serve in healthcare are at risk for contracting the virus, the healthcare staff face dangers of exposure from everyday contact as well as the additional exposure from patients. PSMC has already begun to make strategic moves to insure there are enough professionals to serve the community. However, once again, we all own a responsibility to each other to practice the basic precautions to stop the spread.

In addition to encouraging vigilance in safety precautions and being proactive in making sure the hospital is well staffed, PSMC has also been planning for the vaccine to be released locally. However, as Lunneborg states, “even under the best of circumstances it will not be ready for broad distribution anytime soon.” In practicing virus precautions please keep in mind celebrations for the holidays will look different this year. Incorporating safety into holiday planning is imperative to lowering the danger. Planning must consider close contact with family who do not live in the home as a danger. Mental health must also be taken seriously during this time, as typical seasonal triggers are prevalent during these months, a COVID-19 lifestyle adds to these triggers.

For your well-being, for the well-being of your loved ones, for the well-being of our health care and other essential workers, and for the well-being of your neighbor—please take this threat seriously and be aware that simple behavioral modifications practiced now can save us much loss in the future. Be smart and be well Sumter County.