x Belvedere COVID-19 testing 25.JPG (copy)

Heather Radford, right, administers a COVID-19 test to Leslie Griffin during a community coronavirus testing clinic earlier this month.

Over 2,200 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in South Carolina on Tuesday, including 67 in Aiken County.

This is the largest daily increase in cases reported in Aiken County since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in South Carolina in March. Six new cases were reported in Edgefield County on Tuesday, and 18 new cases were reported in Barnwell County.

South Carolina has officially logged more than 60,000 COVID-19 cases as of July 14, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Over 1,500 people are currently hospitalized for coronavirus-related health concerns and over 200 are on ventilators. 

Almost 800 of those reported cases and a dozen COVID-19-related deaths have been reported in Aiken County.

Aiken Regional Medical Centers announced Tuesday that visitations to the hospital will be suspended until further notice (with some exceptions) due to the increasing spread of COVID-19 in South Carolina and Georgia.

The suspension will go into effect Wednesday at 6 p.m. and continue until further notice.

Aiken Regional Medical Centers has confirmed 262 cases of novel coronavirus in Aiken County with six deaths, according to a news release. There are additional individuals who have been tested for COVID-19, but test results have not been received yet.

“Our team continues to review necessary precautionary measures to ensure all patients, medical staff, associates and the community remain safe,” said Jim O’Loughlin, CEO at Aiken Regional Medical Centers, in a news release. “With the staggering increase of positive cases throughout the CSRA over the past couple of weeks, it is imperative the hospital enhance our safety protocols to ensure we continue to do our part to limit the further spread of the virus ... And (we) are prepared to adjust our scheduling of elective procedures as necessary to keep beds open and available to handle a potential increase in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.”

The following scenarios are exceptions to the no-visitor restrictions:

• End-of-life situations.

• Emergency Department patients are limited to one visitor who can stay in the department but is no longer permitted in the hospital once the patient is taken to an inpatient unit. If the visitor leaves the Emergency Department, he/she may not return.

• Labor and Delivery/Postpartum will allow one overnight visitor.

• Surgery patients can be picked up outside of Outpatient Registration at the hospital and the side entrance to the Surgery Center of Aiken.

“We understand the difficulty of loved ones being separated while one is in the hospital,” said Bridget Denzik, chief nursing officer at Aiken Regional Medical Centers. “Our nursing team is able to help ease this process and keep loved ones updated and connected by assisting the patient with phone or video calls.”

Loved ones can also visit aikenregional.com to send a personalized ePatient Note that will be hand-delivered to the patient.

Outpatient appointments are limited to the patient only – no visitors; others should remain in their vehicles.

Those with young children should make alternate arrangements prior to arriving at the hospital or an outpatient facility. Parents/guardians who need to bring their child to an outpatient facility or the Emergency Department should plan to accompany the child alone and make alternate arrangements for other children.

Additional data

DHEC also reported 23 new deaths on Tuesday. Nine of the victims were middle-aged and 14 were elderly, according to the agency. None were Aiken County residents.

Over 21% of the test results announced Tuesday were positive for COVID-19.

Health authorities have frequently reiterated the need for social distancing compliance in an effort to curb the spread of the pandemic in South Carolina. A number of cities have implemented mask ordinances in public places in an effort to decrease spread of disease.

Most recently, the City of Aiken approved an ordinance calling for masks or cloth face coverings to be worn in retail and food service establishments, with exemptions.

Aiken City Council passed the ordinance in a 5-2 vote after debating the issue with residents for over two hours.

The ordinance will go into effect Friday and last 61 days.

Kristina Rackley is the health, education, and general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard. To support local journalism and access more articles, subscribe by clicking here