Two employees at Self Regional Medical Center have tested positive for COVID-19 and the hospital has taken steps to prevent others from getting sick.
Self CEO and President Jim Pfeiffer confirmed that two team members who were tested through the hospital’s drive-through testing area had positive results for COVID-19.
“Both of these team members have been quarantined at home,” he said.
Dr. Matthew Logan, Self’s chief medical officer, said after speaking with both people that they don’t think they acquired the virus from within the health care system, but from out in the community. One of them was in a role with limited patient contact, and the other had limited exposure to other team members.
Either way, Pfeiffer said the hospital’s staff is monitoring people who came in close contact with them. The two who contracted the virus will be isolated in at-home quarantine for 14 days unless their conditions worsen and require hospitalization.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say health care workers can return to work when at least 72 hours have passed since recovery and improvement, and at least a week has passed since symptoms first appeared. Logan said once they return, they’ll also be required to wear face masks for 21 days and will be monitored by employee health officials.
Pfeiffer said the hospital couldn’t release more detailed information on where these employees worked but said specific, detailed information about positive COVID-19 cases isn’t all that useful to the public.
“All it’s going to do is instill fear in other people,” he said. “It is out there, and the reality is many or all of us will be exposed in some way.”
Instead of trying to avoid people with confirmed positive cases, Pfeiffer said people should be on guard against the risk of day-to-day exposure. That’s why social distancing, staying at home, rigorous hand-washing and other personal preventative measures are so important, he said.
As of 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Pfeiffer said Self had tested 436 people, with 11 positive results, 238 negatives and 186 pending tests, though only eight of the pending tests are from the state’s testing lab, while the remainder is from private labs. Of the positive results, he said six are from Greenwood, three from Laurens, and one each from Newberry and Lexington counties.
He said he’s hopeful that quicker tests will become more readily available; the sooner medical staff can get results, the sooner the patient can get quarantined. A quicker turnaround also reduces the rate at which medical staff goes through protective gear, which is a concern nationwide.
Logan said the staff has appreciated all the donations from local companies and individuals making protective masks, and that the hospital still needs more. It’s unclear how many they’ll need in the end, as it’s dependent on how big a surge of hospitalizations the Lakelands sees in the long run.
The stock of ventilators has also been a concern at many hospitals, and Logan said Self has enough to meet its current needs and has the capacity to handle a small surge, but not a rush of 40-50 patients needing them at once. Hospital officials are watching techniques staff are using in virus epicenters to share ventilators, but Pfeiffer said he hopes Greenwood won’t need to resort to that.
Following medical guidelines, practicing social distancing and washing hands frequently is still the best way to slow the spread, which can help manufacturers catch up to the demand for medical supplies and help hospitals catch up with testing and treatment demands.