COVID vaccines arrive; record numbers over Christmas

• Recovering COVID-19 patients headed to Laurens County Hospital

COVID-19 vaccines began to arrive and be administered across South Carolina this past week. Frontline medical personnel and first responders were among the first to be given the vaccines.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, 112,125 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been received as of Tuesday, Dec. 29, and 31,511 doses had been administered in what the agency is calling “phase 1A” of the vaccinations. On Monday, DHEC reported the reception of 84,500 doses of the Monderna vaccine that have been allocated for long-term care patients across the state.

Meanwhile, recovering COVID-19 patients in Prisma Health hospitals in other areas of the Upstate could be transferred to Prisma’s Laurens County Hospital due to a recent spike in cases and hospitalizations as well as staffing shortages caused by the novel coronavirus.

Prisma made the announcement of a “step-down unit” at Laurens Tuesday afternoon. The two-tiered system is designed to alleviate strain on other Prisma hospitals in Greenville and the surrounding area.

“We have to get this to plateau,” Prisma President and CEO Mark O’Halla said. If cases continue to rise, he said, “we are going to be in some really challenging circumstances that we just don’t want to get to.”

Laurens County had its highest three-day total since first cases were reported here in March. The county experienced a new high of positive tests on Christmas Day with 79. DHEC also reported 69 positive tests on Dec. 23 and 54 on Christmas Eve. The three-day total of 192 was the highest in a 72-hour timeframe that the county has experienced.

DHEC reported 35 new cases for the county Tuesday as well as three COVID-19 related death of elderly persons, one each Dec. 24-26. Those deaths bring the total to 79 in the county.

The total number of cases in Laurens County has grown to 3,438.

Statewide, the number of new cases reported Tuesday was 2,208 with 27.1% of the 8,139 tests coming back positive.

COVID-19 testing will be Wednesday at the Laurens County Health Department from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. each day.

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