Governor Henry McMaster said in a brief update Wednesday that AccelerateSC is focusing on a strategy to provide more COVID-19 testing to South Carolinians in the next month.
“We’re going to be testing all over South Carolina,” McMaster said. “We now know what the disease looks like, we know its capacity. [The tests] cost nothing.”
The governor did not make any new announcements regarding further opening of other types of businesses, but said he hopes to have announcements before this week is out.
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) Dr. Rick Toomey said that they are collaborating with the hospital association, federally-qualified healthcare centers and other organizations to provide the testing.
“DHEC cannot do it alone,” Toomey said.
Dr. Joan Duwve, director of public health with SCDHEC, said that the testing will help indicate where their efforts and resources will be needed most.
Duwve said that currently 68,766 tests have been performed, covering 1.25% of the state’s population. Of those tests, 6,841 were positive, showing a 10% positivity rate.
“In order to begin a safe transition … South Carolina will need to increase their per capita testing…” Duwve said.
The federal government has committed to testing 2% of the state’s population during May and June, totaling around 110,000 tested per month.
Their four key testing areas will be universal testing of nursing home residents and staff, under-resourced and minority communities, urban areas, and finding additional testing sites.
“Over 40,000 South Carolinians live or work in 194 nursing homes in the state. While measures have been put in place, the number of infections in long-term care facilities continues to grow,” Duwve said.
She said 851 cases have been reported in the state’s nursing home facilities, and 84 deaths, accounting for 28% of the deaths in the state.
The testing will also include some prisons, jails, and group homes.
Duwve said that the African-American community is disproportionately affected, saying that they represent 27% of the state’s population, but account for 44% of confirmed cases and 46% of the fatalities.
DHEC officials say that they will be partnering with a variety of local organizations to develop drive-through testing facilities and pop-up testing events will be occurring in Charleston, Columbia, and the Greenville/Spartanburg area over the next month.
The free testing is funded by the federal government, Duwve said, and through funds available through the General Assembly.
McMaster and Duwve both said that citizens still need to be cautious and practice safety measures.
“Just because we’re increasing testing doesn’t mean we should stop social distancing. It doesn’t mean we should stop thinking about hand hygiene. We should still stay home when we’re sick and wearing a mask in public is important,” Duwve said. “You may not know if you are infected, or if the person in front of you or next to you is infected. It’s a very selfless thing to do actually.”
Updated locations for testing can be found at www.scdhec.gov/COVID19