Health leaders from Grand Strand area hospitals announced a joint campaign to help combat the coronavirus pandemic during a virtual news conference Friday afternoon.
Conway Medical Center, Grand Strand Health, McLeod Health and Tidelands Health announced the joint COVID-19 initiative Friday as cases of the coronavirus and virus-related deaths continue to rise in both Horry and Georgetown counties.
The campaign plans to include television and billboard advertisements and an open letter to the public about wearing masks, refraining from gathering in large groups and washing their hands.
"We're overwhelmed right now," said Dr. Gerald Harmon with Tidelands Health. "This is a serious event. A serious pandemic, and it's not a hoax."
Harmon said Tidelands Health is currently at capacity and has 52 COVID-19 patients as the hospital system is facing staffing issues.
The initiative will not cost the hospitals as production was done in-house and television stations will run the information as public service announcements, hospital officials said. The hospital systems plan to display information on existing digital billboard rotations.
Mark Sims, CEO at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, said there has been a decline in COVID-19 patients in Grand Strand hospitals over the last seven to 10 days.
Tidelands Health is a leader in COVID-19 testing across the two counties as it has held free drive-thru testing clinics to test thousands of people for the virus. The hospital system plans to host a clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Pelicans Stadium in Myrtle Beach.
As of Friday, cases of the coronavirus have surpassed 7,850 in Horry County, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. More than 115 deaths due to the virus have been reported in the county.