So it looks like Charleston is opening up for business! And based on the retail parking lots I saw this weekend, Charlestonians seem eager to get out and about. As I’ve said many times, I feel that the lowcountry has benefited from our warm weather and plentiful outdoor activities (that are social distancing compatible).
For what my 2 cents are worth, I disagree with the governor's decision to stop requiring those visiting from hotspots to quarantine for 2 weeks. The virus is still out there, and people are still dying; we can expect it to be with us throughout the summer. In fact, numbers of cases may actually rise as testing improves and or increases.
So I think we should continue to be on guard, continue handwashing, social distancing, mask wearing for now. We will continue to abide by current CDC recommendations regarding masks, social distancing, and temperature checks in the office. We are taking cues from the local hospitals as well, and will adjust our policies accordingly.
I did receive an email from the American Society of Plastic Surgery last week that suggested that as many as 40% of the negative Covid tests could be false negatives, suggesting that the Covid numbers could be wildly inaccurate, with much greater prevalence of the virus. The good news is that a 40% false negative rate suggests that many more Americans have had exposure and hopefully immunity to the disease.
I am still holding out hope that an accurate antibody test becomes widely available. I do believe that a reliable antibody test is the only way we’ll be able to tell the extent if the penetration of the virus nationwide and a better idea on the true mortality rates.
However, we may never get an accurate mortality rate since many deaths caused by other underlying causes are getting classified as Covid deaths if the person was also Covid positive. Getting back to antibodies, an antibody test, to be useful, must have very high sensitivity and specificity, especially if being used to make decisions about reopening schools and sporting events.
If not senisitive enough, those with immunity (prior exposure) could be incorrectly excluded or included from activities based on the antibody test. And unfortunately, we don’t know for sure that a person can’t get sick again even in the presence of antibodies. What has made the Covid Crisis infuriating for me is the inability to trust the data.
The only meaningful number for me has come down to hospital bed utilization. During the period of most stringent limitations on surgeries in SC hospitals, hospital utilization hovered around the 50% mark, indicating that the Covid predictions for SC we’re overestimated. I believe that as long as South Carolinians remain cautious and that a close watch is kept on that utilization number, we can resume business and our way of life.
Of note, after resuming elective surgeries over the last few weeks, DHEC is reporting that the current hospital utilization rate statewide is on par with the average rate for this time of the year. This is good news! So are the recent reports on Remdesivir, a promising drug treatment for Covid. More on drug treatments later! Time to get back to work everyone!
One last quick shout out...next Sunday is Mother’s Day. In honor of all our mom’s, keep a lookout on our websites and social media sites for daily specials this month.
And Allergan just announced a gift card special (see the link below) which can be combined with our practice specials for additional savings.
Have a great week!
Heidi Williams MD