South Carolina begins COVID-19 testing program as state reopens

Ansley Puckett, Reporter

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced on Wednesday that staff members and residents at every state nursing home will be tested for COVID-19.

The first phase of testing will begin May 11 and  test residents and staff members at the 194 nursing homes in the state in an effort to increase testing in South Carolina.

The state has performed 77,482 COVID-19 tests and is looking to increase that number, beginning with high-risk populations such as nursing homes.

“We want South Carolinians to know that DHEC is doing everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially for the vulnerable populations who reside at these care facilities,” DHEC Director Rick Toomey said.

According to DHEC Director of Public Health, Joan Duwve, increased testing will allow DHEC to better identify and group asymptomatic residents to “further reduce the spread of COVID-19 from patients with no signs of illness.”

According to DHEC’s website, LabCorp, South Carolina Healthcare Association and Leading Age South Carolina will work with DHEC to test approximately 40,000 South Carolinians. 

DHEC expects to complete statewide testing by the end of May.

The announcement comes days after Gov. Henry McMaster lifted South Carolina’s “Home-or-Work” order and began steps to reopen the state.

The order also allowed South Carolina restaurants to resume outdoor dining services on May 4 while urging residents to remain “vigilant in protecting themselves.”

The governor issued Executive Order 2020-31 on May 3, in an effort to assist the state’s economy.

The order states, “the State of South Carolina must remain flexible to account for the evolving nature and scope of the public health emergency posed by COVID-19, while also simultaneously continuing the process of safely, strategically and incrementally reopening businesses and facilitating economic recovery and revitalization.”