As the citizens of South Carolina continue to watch, wait and observe stay-at-home orders, MUSC Health providers are stepping forward daily to care for those affected by the novel coronavirus. As of today, MUSC Health is treating five people in its Charleston hospital facilities who tested positive for COVID-19. While delivering top-quality care to patients with the virus, MUSC leaders and members of the MUSC/MUHA Board of Trustees are also pursuing multiple ways to battle the pathogen, including data modeling, testing and tracking. These efforts will be key to revitalizing the local and statewide economy.
“It is imperative that our community receive accurate, clear and reliable information about the spread of this too-often deadly virus,” said Charles W. Schulze, CPA, chairman of the MUSC/MUHA Board of Trustees. “Our health system leaders are working with infectious disease and epidemiology specialists to review national models and track leading indicators,” Schulze said. “Based on the insights and data shared by these specialists, we have a high level of confidence that MUSC Health is thoroughly prepared to manage and deliver the specialty care that those in distress from this virus will need.”
A graphic from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) illustrates the level of the expected impact in South Carolina, with the peak estimated to occur in late April to early May. (See IHME image at the end of this release.) Recently, MUSC senior leaders and experts launched a new digital resource called the MUSC COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project: https://web.musc.edu/coronavirus-updates/epidemiology-project. Continuously updated data from this effort informs decisions that allow the MUSC team to adjust and pivot, as needed, to make informed decisions and expand efforts to re-energize the health system’s operations and bolster its financial position.
“We are constantly evaluating data to gain greater insight about what number of patients we are likely to see,” said MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS. “This situation is manageable and we will continue to monitor the data and make adjustments, as needed,” he said.
“Our focus has to be on achieving the proper balance – standing ready to deliver the health care that the people of our city and state need in a safe and reliable environment, while pushing forward to enable a rapid and successful revitalization of our economy,” Cole explained. “We cannot ignore the possibility that a second group of COVID-19 patients may emerge as a result of relaxed social distancing restrictions, which could reverse or cripple any economic progress.”
To do everything we can to avoid a second round of impact from COVID-19 and to move forward as a statewide community, Cole stressed five essential actions that must be taken.
1. Staged Economic Revitalization – Developing and deploying a strategic staged revitalization of the economy, prioritizing the highest impact economic drivers that represent the lowest risk of second-round COVID-19 risk. Recognizing the importance of this action on being able to care for all the patients and families that come to MUSC Health for help, a staged recovery and opening within the health system is already deep in the planning and implementation mode.
2. Disease testing – Continuing to develop our ability to test those who have symptoms of COVID-19. MUSC is the only health system in the state that has in-house PCR testing capabilities, which the health system is using to resume some urgent OR and other procedures.
3. Immunity testing – Developing and deploying tests for immunity to COVID-19 and certifying those who are recovered and immune to COVID-19. This work is ongoing, and MUSC Health will be sharing more details about these efforts soon.
4. Contact tracing – Having a system in place to identify and trace contacts and quarantining individuals at risk. MUSC is working with the SC Department of Health and Environmental Services and other partners across the state to move this forward in a more meaningful way for the days ahead.
5. Protecting the vulnerable – Ensuring that the most vulnerable, including the elderly, minority communities and persons with chronic disease and weakened immune systems, remain socially distanced, protected and supported until the epidemic is well-controlled.
“MUSC leaders and members of the board are working in close collaboration with government officials, other health system leaders, other higher education institutions and a range of additional strategic partners to move these five essential actions forward,” Cole said. “We will share more specifics and strategies related to these five areas as progress permits.”