On anniversary of its first diagnosed case of COVID-19, Tidelands Health reflects on past year, moves forward with optimism
Luminary observance planned for Tuesday evening to mark pandemic milestone
It will forever be the day everything changed.
A year ago today, on March 16, 2020, Tidelands Health confirmed its first diagnosed case of COVID-19 - the then-mysterious, highly contagious virus gripping the world.
In the 12 months since, Tidelands Health has become the region’s leader in pandemic response, even as the health system persevered through a worldwide PPE shortage, saw its hospitals operating over capacity for weeks at a time and battled a new virus that initially had few treatment options.
Dedicated health care professionals took on extra shifts and put themselves on the front lines to provide high-quality, compassionate care to COVID-19 patients. Tidelands Health brought large-scale community testing to the Grand Strand and stepped up to offer emerging COVID-19 treatments such as convalescent plasma and monoclonal antibody therapy. And, now, the Tidelands Health team is administering thousands of doses of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine each week.
“It’s truly remarkable how far we’ve come in the past year,” said Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health. “Through it all, our dedicated team has sacrificed to serve our community amid the uncertainty, the fear and, at last, the hope of the vaccine.”
In the past year, Tidelands Health has:
- Conducted more than 45,000 COVID-19 tests. In addition to testing its own patients, the health system partnered with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to test nearly 16,000 people during free, large-scale community drive-through testing events – testing as many as 2,500 people in a single day.
- Cared for more than 4,500 individuals with the virus and remained on the forefront of COVID-19 treatment. Tidelands Health has administered more than 340 doses of convalescent plasma as a participant in the Mayo Clinic’s national convalescent plasma initiative and delivered more than 3,400 doses of antiviral medication Remdesivir. In addition, the health system was one of the first in South Carolina to offer monoclonal antibody therapy to COVID-19-positive patients at high risk of hospitalization. The health system has administered more than 1,200 doses of this promising treatment.
- Offered educational resources and served as the go-to source for reliable, accurate information about COVID-19. More than 13,800 people have called the Tidelands Health Nurse Call Line, established in April 2020 to offer the expertise of nurses to help answer community members’ questions about COVID-19. And more than 7,000 calls about COVID-19 resources and testing have been answered by 1-866-TIDELANDS.
- Administered more than 37,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine – and counting. Eager to administer the vaccine as quickly as possible, Tidelands Health set up two regional vaccination sites in Georgetown and Horry counties and hired the staff to operate them. The health system also stepped up to administer vaccine to Phase 1a eligible workers not employed by Tidelands Health and partnered with the Georgetown County School District to vaccinate educators and others. Tidelands Health has also partnered with DHEC to administer overdue second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to those who received their first dose from another vaccine provider but haven’t been able to secure an appointment for their second dose.
“I remember the impromptu celebration and renewed sense of hope that came with the arrival of the vaccine in December,” said Gayle Resetar, chief operating officer. “At the time, we were seeing another surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that was again taxing our team, which had already sacrificed so much for so long. The vaccine’s arrival was truly a turning point for all of us. It brought renewed hope for better days ahead.”
The community’s support throughout the pandemic – from heartfelt thank-you cards and prayer vigils to donations of food and supplies - also helped lift the spirits of health care workers battling COVID-19 on the front lines through the health system’s “Thank You to the Helpers” initiative.
“Individuals, churches, organizations and businesses have been so gracious in offering support to our team, especially during the early days of the pandemic,” said Ashley Capps, vice president of nursing and operations. “I can’t even put into words how much every donation and kind gesture helped our team members and health system get through such a challenging time. I’m still blown away that area businesses and more than 2,000 people stepped up to help sew new elastic bands on N95 respirators in the spring. We extend our deepest thanks to everyone who has supported us over the past year. It has truly been amazing and means so much.”
This evening, Tidelands Health will mark one year of COVID-19 with a special luminary observance, “Light to Remember, Hope for Tomorrow.” The luminary observance at four Tidelands Health locations will pay tribute to those who have lost their lives to the virus, offer thanks for those who have recovered, honor the region’s health care heroes and celebrate the promise of the COVID-19 vaccine. A luminary will be lit for every life lost to COVID-19 in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties, even as the health system and region look to a brighter tomorrow.
To adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols, there will be no public gathering during the luminary observance, but residents are encouraged to turn on the exterior lights at their homes, businesses, churches and organizations at 7 p.m. this evening to show their support. Community members also can download and print a “Lights to Remember, Hope for Tomorrow” sign to post in their windows or hold up for a photo and share on social media with the hashtag #LightstoRemember.
“We know our battle with COVID-19 isn’t over, but with every vaccine we administer, we are reminded that better days are ahead,” Dr. Harmon said.
Interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine from Tidelands Health? If you are eligible in Phases 1a and 1b, go to tidelandshealth.org/vaccine/, or call 1-888-567-3144 to schedule an appointment.