COVID updates: S.C. hits milestone; Sylvania mourns firefighter

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 5:08 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - South Carolina on Friday reported 6,697 new cases of COVID-19 in one day, the third-highest daily total since the start of the pandemic. The state also reported 59 deaths blamed on COVID.

Meanwhile, Georgia reports 8,403 cases and 59 deaths.

And in Screven County, firefighters are mourning the loss of one of their own to COVID complications.

“Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the loss of one of our own. Volunteer firefighter Chris Clifton passed away last night due to complications from COVID-19,” the Sylvania Fire Department posted on Facebook. “Chris was an active member of the Sylvania Fire Department since 2011 and was also a member of the Screven County Fire Department and Newington Fire Department. Thank you for your service, Chris. You will be missed by all.”

Not since South Carolina reported 7,680 cases on Jan. 6 and 7,450 on Jan. 8 has the state seen so many positive test results in one day.

Just two months ago, following an initial wave of vaccinations and schools being out for summer vacations, the state recorded back-to-back days on June 19 and 20 of fewer than 100 cases statewide.

Now, South Carolina has not been below 1,000 cases since July 24 and has had two days with more than 5,000 cases and two with more than 4,000 in the last two weeks.

In announcing the numbers, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control called for legislative consideration of the removal of masking restrictions for school districts.

The agency noted that more young people are getting COVID-19, more are requiring hospitalization, and more are being “We have to pay close attention to what these numbers are telling us about the virus’ behavior and understand the risk we’re facing,” said Dr. Ed Simmer, DHEC director. “Without a corresponding surge in vaccinations to meet this challenge and universal indoor masking in public places, my fear is that more grim milestones are ahead.”

How hospitals are coping

The latest surge in coronavirus cases is overwhelming many of the nation’s intensive care units, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services saying nearly 80 percent of the country’s ICU beds were in use.

About 30 percent of those were filled by someone with COVID-19.

At Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Georgia, the crush of COVID patients has led to the recruitment of scores of employees who don’t normally work on patient floors. They included Scott Steiner, the health system’s president and CEO.

On Sunday, Steiner helped turn COVID patients on their stomachs so their ravaged lungs could possibly take in more oxygen. The maneuver can require six people, depending on a patient’s weight.

“This is all hands on deck,” Steiner said.

Beyond the intensive care units, the COVID surge is stretching Georgia hospital emergency rooms and emergency medical services personnel and resources to unprecedented levels, the Georgia Department of Public Heath said Friday.

As a result, many hospitals are having to declare themselves “on diversion,” meaning they are temporarily unable to provide normal emergency care to patients arriving by ambulance.

That’s a term specific to ambulance transports and is a request to ambulances to transport patients to other local facilities if possible.

Diversion does not apply to individuals seeking emergency medical care.

People experiencing a medical emergency should call 911 and ask for assistance, the agency said.

However, to help keep hospital emergency departments open and able to treat medical emergencies, people seeking COVID testing should not go to hospital emergency departments. COVID19 testing locations are available throughout Georgia and can be found on the DPH website at

  • Hospitals in the CSRA continue to be slammed by COVID-19 patients. Here’s a look at local hospitals’ COVID inpatient counts Friday:
  • University Hospital: 129, up five from Thursday. The hospital said 115 are unvaccinated. Of the 13 on ventilators, 11 are unvaccinated and of the 18 in intensive care, 16 are unvaccinated.
  • Augusta University Health: 108, up two from Thursday. Five of Friday’s inpatients are children.
  • Doctors Hospital: 63, down three from Thursday.
  • Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center: 16, down two from Thursday, with nine in intensive care.
  • Aiken Regional Medical Center: 39, down five, with eight in intensive care.

Also in the news ...

COVID ORIGINS: U.S. intelligence agencies remain divided on the origins of the coronavirus but believe China’s leaders did not know about the virus before the start of the global pandemic, according to a review ordered by President Joe Biden.

BOOSTER STATS: Nearly 650,000 Americans had received an additional “booster” dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

DRUG PROBLEM: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts are seeing an alarming number of prescriptions for a drug used to fight parasites in animals and that some people think will fight COVID.

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