University Updates on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

MUSC Health biweekly COVID-19 report (May 11)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (May 11, 2020) –At MUSC Health, the safety of patients, families, care team members, students, faculty and staff remains the number one priority. In an effort to provide accurate, relevant and timely COVID-19 information to news media in South Carolina and beyond, the MUSC Public Affairs and Media Relations (PAMR) department will now issue regular COVID-19 updates on Monday and Thursday of each week. Please read the report in its entirety; information can change quickly.  

The Path Forward / Recovery

ICYMI: MUSC Health ambulatory services has opened drive-in lab specimen collection and check-in sites for vulnerable patient populations who need regular blood draws and blood pressure checks related to ongoing monitoring of their conditions, but who may not wish to enter a facility to complete these services. These individuals include those in treatment for cancer, heart issues or organ transplantation, for example. These services do NOT include COVID-19 specimen collection- those services are separated, even if physically located outdoors in the same general location.

Patients who need these monitoring services will receive lab orders from their MUSC providers, likely after connecting through MUSC Health’s telehealth platform. All efforts will be made to match patients with their preferred location below, beginning Wednesday, May 6:

MUSC Health Primary Care- Springview

87 Springview Lane, Summerville

Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

MUSC Health East Cooper Medical Pavilion

1600 Midtown Avenue, Mount Pleasant

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 8:15 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

MUSC Health Rutledge Tower

135 Rutledge Avenue, Charleston

Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Patients will drive in, park in a designated area and check-in at the tent to have their blood work completed or blood pressure checked. Patients do not need to enter the building and MUSC staff will be there to assist with patient check in and wayfinding.

ICYMI: The MUSC COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Projectis a digital dashboard that provides leading indicators related to the COVID-19 epidemic to enable informed decisions. An Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) chart from the website illustrates the level of the expected impact in South Carolina, and experts will continue to monitor the data and make adjustments to operations, as needed. MUSC’s goal is to deliver health care in a safe and reliable environment, while pushing forward to enable a rapid and successful revitalization of the economy.

A current situation assessment for MUSC Health – Charleston (Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties) is also available on this site. Data related to MUSC Health Florence and Lancaster divisions are now live as well. 

As the community moves forward to revitalize the economy, the possibility exists that a second group of COVID-19 patients may emerge as a result of relaxed social distancing restrictions, which could reverse or undermine any economic progress. To avoid this and help the statewide community move forward successfully, MUSC is actively engaged with state leadership on these five actions:

1)     Staged strategic economic revitalization with businesses allowed to move forward taking responsibility for assuring appropriate social distancing, workforce and customer protection, aligned with

2)     Diagnostic testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by this new coronavirus and

3)     Antibody testing for SARS-CoV-2, the specific form of coronavirus that caused the pandemic, to define prevalence;

4)     Contact tracing deployed to respond to new COVID-19 hotspots and mitigate the potential for outbreaks; and

5)     Vigilant protection of vulnerable populations.

MUSC COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody testing

Rural and underserved communities experience disparities in access to COVID-19 screening, testing, prevention and treatment in South Carolina and nationally. MUSC Health, in partnership with the state legislature, is setting up mobile screening and collection sites in rural and underserved areas. Tents will be set up outside in designated locations to collect COVID-19 respiratory specimens from both walk-up and drive-through patients. Prescreening is not required, and the cost is free to patients. Patients will be contacted within 72 hours with the results of their test. The mobile setup allows care providers to rotate sites, reaching underserved and rural populations experiencing barriers to health care access for COVID-19 screening. Collectively, the MUSC Health ambulatory, telehealth, information solutions, emergency management and operations, finance, laboratory and leadership teams were first in the nation to launch a combined virtual urgent care platform and drive-through specimen collection site; now, they’re taking a version of this successful model to more communities that need it.

In partnership with Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, MUSC Health will offer a temporary site located at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, 445 S Church St., Spartanburg, SC 29306. The site will open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12 and Wednesday May 13. After May 13, MUSC will evaluate the need for continued operation of this site the following week or make a determination to move to another temporary, community location in the Spartanburg area.

The next location for the week of May 11 in the Columbia area is Forest Heights Elementary School, 2500 Blue Ridge Terrace, Columbia, SC 29203. The temporary site will open Wednesday, May 13, Thursday, May 14, and Friday, May 15. After May 15, MUSC will make a determination about moving to another temporary, community location in the Columbia area. This site operates from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The temporary site previously located at Rice Creek elementary school will not reopen next week. 

For the Sumter area, those seeking free mobile walk-up and drive-through screening and specimen collection may visit the Sumter Civic Center located at 700 West Liberty Streetfrom 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 13. After May 13, MUSC will evaluate the need for continued operation of this site or make a determination to move to another temporary, community location near the Sumter area.

MUSC Health Florence Medical Center’s mobile screening and specimen collection site locations will rotate weekly and will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Locations and dates include:

May 11 – 15      Iola Jones Park, 800 Oakland Avenue

May 18 – 22    Pearl Moore Basketball Center, 500 Barnes Street

MUSC is currently evaluating other tri-county areas for launch this week and more information will be provided as soon as it is confirmed.

In reporting on these important developments for these local communities, individuals (elected officials, community leaders, city employees, etc.) and media outlets are asked to adhere to these basic rules while engaging with these locations during operational hours:

  1. NO FILMING OR PHOTOGRAPHY INSIDE THE SITE while patients are present (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). This is to protect patient privacy while undergoing specimen collection and for the safety of our care team members. The team needs to perform this service safely when vehicles are present.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued additional guidance on May 5 to covered health care providers (such as MUSC Health) that the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not permit them to give media and film crews access to facilities where patients’ protected health information (PHI) will be accessible without the patients’ prior authorization. The guidance explains that even during the current COVID-19 public health emergency, covered health care providers are still required to obtain a valid HIPAA authorization from each patient whose PHI will be accessible to the media before the media is given access to that PHI. Due to the complicated logistics and potential safety issues involved in trying to obtain this kind of consent in real-time at a walk-up or drive-through mobile collection site, there will be NO PHOTOGRAPHY OR VIDEO ALLOWED “INSIDE THE FENCE” DURING HOURS OF OPERATION AT ANY MUSC-AFFILIATED MOBILE COLLECTION SITE.

2. We ask that every effort be made to consider patient privacy, and request that photography or video taken from outside the site not involve real-time aerial, close-up/identifying or magnified lens use while patients are present.

3. We ask that every effort be made to follow all security protocols for the site so that patients, care team members and media professionals stay safe. Those who cannot follow these protocols will be asked to leave the area as appropriate. 

4. We ask that all MUSC Health team member interviews related to this topic take place when the site is not in operation (before opening, during an individual’s lunch break or after closing via phone or Zoom at a later time) so that our team can focus on safety, patient care and making sure that things are going as smoothly as possible. All interviews should be coordinated through MUSC PR offices and are dependent on site location and care team member availability.

MUSC Health is offering voluntary COVID-19 serologic testing to care team members and first responders in Charleston, Florence and Lancaster divisions and within those local communities. This service is expected to expand for broader community access in coming weeks.

Early results from antibody testing indicate that just 2% of health care workers have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Read more.

The serology test is a blood test that looks for the presence of antibodies, which are specific proteins made in response to infections. Antibodies can be found in the blood and in other tissues of those who are tested after an infection. The antibodies detected by this test indicate that a person had an antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), whether symptoms developed from the infection or the infected person was asymptomatic. These antibodies may help provide protection from future infection as well as identify those still at risk.

Antibody testing for COVID-19 is in its early phases. Hundreds of companies have developed these tests and more are coming on the market every day. There is no perfect test, but MUSC Health is committed to offering the best ones available. As MUSC Health validates and makes COVID-19 antibody testing widely available, it is important to make sure individuals and the media understand what the test results mean.

At this time, MUSC Health currently recommends the Abbott ARCHITECT SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibody test. There are some limitations to this test/serological testing at this time, specifically:

• The Abbott ARCHITECT SARS-CoV-2 IgG Antibody Test has been validated by MUSC labs to have a 96% sensitivity and 99% specificity. A positive result means that there is a 99% chance that an individual had a previous COVID-19 infection.

• Positive results do not establish proof of long-lasting immunity for any future COVID-19 infection. It is likely that an individual may have some immunity, but we do not yet know the level of immunity given the presence of antibodies. We also do not know how individual characteristics might influence this immunity.

• Therefore, positive results should NOT be considered a reason for individuals to stop protecting themselves from COVID-19 (at work or home) in terms of social distancing practices when possible, good health hygiene, use of PPE in high-risk environments, etc.

For populations, the test is very useful to measure how much COVID-19 is occurring locally by comparing how many people have antibodies now versus later, as COVID-19 becomes more common in South Carolina.

For individuals, it is difficult to make firm conclusions and work-home decisions, based on a single antibody test. However, it is important to start testing now, knowing that tests will improve over time. In addition, our knowledge will improve on which antibodies protect people from getting COVID-19, and how long these antibodies are likely to last in the body. As we are able to document who has had prior exposure to COVID-19, we will be able to understand whether individuals are at risk for developing a second infection and its severity.

Care team members or first responders who wish to be tested can use MUSC Virtual Urgent Care to complete a COVID-19 (coronavirus) visit. Select “yes” on the additional information question and enter #covidimmunity in the comments section. Virtual Care will determine medical eligibility for serologic testing.

Candidates for the serology test, should schedule blood draw appointments through MUSC MyChart. Results will be available in MyChart within 48-72 hours. Testing is available at select locations in the Charleston, Florence, and Lancaster divisions and by appointment only.  Repeat testing, for those who test negative, will be offered no more than every 30 days for qualified candidates. The cost of the test will be billed to insurance carriers. Based on the recent CARES Act, insured patients will likely not have an outstanding balance for this test.

MUSC COVID-19 info for repurpose with permission or follow-up story ideas:

Committed Climber

Originally planning to summit Mount Everest this month, Cokie Berenyi is determined COVID-19 won’t derail her from supporting MUSC Hollings Cancer Center.

Moms' Mental Health

The number of pregnant women and new mothers getting mental health help during the coronavirus pandemic is soaring.

Vitamin D & COVID-19

Veteran vitamin D researchers at MUSC gear up to study whether “sunshine vitamin” can play role in fighting COVID-19.

Nurses in NY

Several MUSC Health nurses have gone to serve on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in hard-hit states, including one who shares his story.

T Cell Treatment

Researchers at Hollings Cancer Center are developing a clinical trial involving the use of T cells, normally a part of cancer treatment, to fight COVID-19.

Basic stats / COVID-19 positive cases

Previously reported data points, such as the number of telehealth screenings, total number of specimens collected at the West Ashley specimen collection site, or the number of COVID-19 positive MUSC care team members are available upon request. 

  • Total number of COVID-19 community screening tests completed by MUSC Health-Charleston: 19,201 (MUSC Health system-wide:22,814) 
  • Total Number of COVID-19 positive greater Charleston community screening tests: 725 (MUSC Health system-wide: 1,128)
    • It is important to understand, and to avoid duplication in reporting, that these cases are reported to, and included in, the DHEC statewide COVID-19 numbers.
    • The majority of these individuals may not require hospitalization in a South Carolina hospital at some point in time.
  • Number of COVID-19 inpatients currently in the hospital (MUSC Health-Charleston): 5
    • MUSC Health monitors this number to determine that we have current and future capacity in terms of health care providers, supplies, ventilators and PPE. Please see the IHME graph here. These numbers are consistent with the modeling and expectation that MUSC Health will have appropriate resources to manage these patients.
    • Of the 5 patients currently in the MUSC Health-Charleston location, 4 are in MUSC Health COVID-19 intensive care, with 2 of the 5 total inpatients receiving ventilator care for disease progression at this time.

COVID-19 capacity (Charleston)

General status (green, yellow, red): GREEN (no change since April 10)

Supplies / Equipment (Charleston)

General status (green, yellow, red): GREEN (no change since April 13)

For a current list of supply requests, please visit this page.

For specific information about MUSC Health Florence or Marion Medical Centers, please contact Kim Geiger at geigerki@musc.edu. For information about MUSC Health Chester or Lancaster Medical Centers, please contact Ashley Shannon at shannona@musc.edu.

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About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the oldest medical school in the South, as well as the state’s only integrated, academic health sciences center with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. The state’s leader in obtaining biomedical research funds, in fiscal year 2019, MUSC set a new high, bringing in more than $284 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.

As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality patient care available, while training generations of competent, compassionate health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Comprising some 1,600 beds, more than 100 outreach sites, the MUSC College of Medicine, the physicians’ practice plan, and nearly 275 telehealth locations, MUSC Health owns and operates eight hospitals situated in Charleston, Chester, Florence, Lancaster and Marion counties. In 2019, for the fifth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit muschealth.org.

MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $3.2 billion. The more than 17,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.