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Sumter doctor separated from family as COVID-19 spread intensifies

Dr. Clay Lowder of Colonial Healthcare and his staff continue to test patients for the coronavirus and urge others to listen to health officials.

SUMTER, S.C. — Medical professionals across the United States are on the front lines, working to heal those impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) rapidly spreading across the country.

Doctor Clay Lowder, founder of Colonial Healthcare, says this virus has completely changed the way he and his staff operate.

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At their urgent care center at 325 Broad Street in Sumter, they've closed their waiting room and moved to a drive-up model to evaluate patients and test for COVID-19.

Credit: Colonial Healthcare
Colonial Healthcare staff check on patients outside amid COVID-19 crisis.

Lowder says it has not been easy.

"It's pretty serious to ask your people that you have worked with for 25 years to go on the front lines and swab somebody for a dangerous disease. You really find out what people are made of," Lowder said. "It's tough on me. I separated my family from myself so I'm not seeing my three kids and wife. Just the overwhelming emotion that you feel with that and just, I guess, realizing how serious this can be has really taken a toll on all our healthcare providers not just me."

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He's hoping locals will heed the warning of health officials across the state to try to stop the spread.

"This testing came here late. We're a leading medical center and we just started doing them last week. So, don't rely on the numbers," Lowder said. "It's way worse than you think it is. You need to assume the worse and isolate yourself. Universal precautions. We have to think that way as a society or we're in trouble."

Individuals with signs of illness are asked to stay at home and not attend public gatherings. 

State health officials ask everyone to monitor for symptoms including fever, cough and difficulty breathing, practice social distancing, avoid touching frequently touched items (like doorknobs and handrails), and regularly wash hands, especially after being in a public place, as a way to help curb the spread.

RELATED: DHEC: 342 cases of coronavirus in SC, 44 new cases

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