Fairfield County ranks 4th highest county in SC for COVID-19 cases per 100K

DHEC: Ridgeway Nursing Home has become COVID-19 hotspot

RIDGEWAY – More than half of Fairfield County’s 160 cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus have been tracked by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) to the PruittHealth – Ridgeway nursing home.

With 68 percent of residents infected, along with 27 staff members, the facility is part of a trend statewide that has seen double-digit case reports from at least two dozen nursing homes around South Carolina.

Fairfield County as a whole had reported 160 cases of COVID-19 as of Monday and 10 deaths, 7 of which occurred as a result of cases in the PruittHealth facility.

Ridgeway reported 115 cases. Of those, there are currently 110 cases (83 patients and 27 staff) at the town’s PruittHealth nursing home. The home’s cumulative number of patient cases over the duration of the pandemic as reported by SCDHEC is 85.

Blythewood 29016, meanwhile, had a total of 61 reported cases of the virus. The population of the 29016 Zip code is similar to that of Fairfield County.

PruittHealth did not comment directly on the data and has limited its comments to general statements from its communications department.

According to one statement, the facility received its first positive COVID-19 test on April 29 and was placed on Alert Code Red, which bars visitors and nonessential personnel.

The spike in cases at PruittHealth Ridgeway first came to the attention of The Voice four days later on May 3, when DHEC notified Fairfield County of 26 new cases, all of them at the PruittHealth facility. PruittHealth initially denied, then later confirmed, the report, say ing they had not yet received the report when The Voice first contacted them.

In the weeks since, the virus has continued to spread around the nursing home.

“PruittHealth – Ridgeway has been strictly following enhanced infection control protocols, including increasing cleaning frequency, postponing communal activities, ceasing visitation, as well as screening staff and patients daily,” according to a statement issued by the facility.

“Those who test presumptive positive for COVID-19 are isolated and are treated by designated staff in an effort to contain the virus. Additionally, we actively monitor staffing levels and appropriate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), and have installed an air scrubber system. We also have built isolation units to work to contain the virus.”

The State’s reporting on the statewide trend noted the abysmal compliance record of some South Carolina nursing homes, including other facilities owned by PruittHealth, asking if the failure to control the spread of COVID-19 may have been linked to other inadequacies.

PruittHealth – Ridgeway, however, has an above average rating and has paid far less in fines than some of the others.

In comments to The State for a May 21 article, health officials didn’t blame nursing homes for the spread in a handful of facilities that had, at that time, accounted for roughly one-third of South Carolina coronavirus deaths.

“Even in a perfect setting where everybody does everything better than the gold standard, unfortunately once the virus gets into a facility where everybody is living in close quarters… the virus can just spread,” DHEC physician Brannon Traxler told the Columbia-based daily newspaper.

“Our folks locked down early and everything we could do could not stop it,” commented Randy Lee, president of the S.C. Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes around the state.

Because of its nursing home numbers, Fairfield county ranked third highest in the state in its rate of infection per 100K population for a week before dropping to fourth on Monday with 715.98 per 100K population.

That statistical rate is calculated based on the number of coronavirus cases and the county’s population, which is less than 23,000.

Statewide, South Carolina had seen 10,416 cases to date as of Monday, and 446 deaths.