COVID-19: MUSC Presidential Update - July 10, 2020

Dear MUSC family,

I would like to share some thoughts and words from our recent virtual press conference aimed at raising community awareness and encouraging more action as COVID-19 increases in prevalence:

The number of COVID-19 infections has soared in the Charleston community in the past few weeks, and the actions of many during the 4th of July weekend will likely only make it worse in the days ahead. Everyone has a story now – a friend, relative or acquaintance who has been infected by or exposed to the virus.

Given its hotspot status, Charleston has a choice to make right now – will we become Miami, Houston or New York? Do we want all the pain, suffering and sacrifice of the past four months to be a waste? Do we care enough about where we live, work, go to school and socialize, and each other, to embrace the behaviors that keep our community safer and moving forward?

To cut through the clutter and noise of competing messages and raise awareness about crucial actions needed in the immediate future, MUSC has deployed a new tool in the Charleston area for use by the news media, businesses, organizations and individuals, called the “Charleston Area COVID-19 Warning Level System.”

Using current, validated data from the MUSC COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project, this tool is similar to air quality reports used in other metro areas, with the intent of communicating daily to the public where we stand in our fight against COVID-19 and what actions the community must take to slow its spread. Charleston is now in an “orange” status, tracking toward “red” status in late July or early August. Moving to the red level would indicate a local emergency, specifically, that significant outbreaks are present and worsening, testing and contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded, and hospitals are full or almost full and may be unable to care for the volume of patients.

We know what this will look like if that happens; businesses would be forced to shut down from a lack of workforce, if not from mandate, children and higher education students would be unable to return safely to school this fall and there will be unnecessary death, illness and suffering, just to name a few negative outcomes. It means that if Charleston, as a community, won’t choose safety and adhere to these guidelines, we will erase the gains made in April and May and the community will be faced with the reality of making undesirable, debilitating and difficult decisions very soon.

Responding to COVID-19 is a community issue that needs a community response. We have to do everything we can to communicate that while the lockdown may have bought us some time, it didn’t make COVID-19 magically disappear so that we can go back to our normal way of doing things. Until we as a nation are able to develop and deploy an effective vaccine, or have effective therapies for COVID-19, individuals, businesses, organizations and communities must come together to do the right thing- adhere to important masking, social distancing and hygiene guidelines and encourage others to do the same.

Charleston, and South Carolina for that matter, has demonstrated on numerous occasions how we can come together in the face of adversity – during storms, tragedies and other situations throughout history. We have the fortitude and strength to do what needs to be done to preserve and recover what we all love and value.

If we act now together, we can continue to move forward. It requires every person in our community to do their part; and hold each other accountable.

Every member of the MUSC family has the opportunity to demonstrate positive leadership in this moment. Please continue to encourage and model the behaviors we know will slow the growth rate of new infections and the burden across all health systems, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and practicing excellent hand hygiene.

Thank you for all you are doing to help each other, our communities and our state as we do everything we can to keep moving safely forward.

Yours in service,

David J. Cole, M.D., FACS
MUSC president