GREENVILLE, S.C. (WIS) - One of the biggest criticisms that leading health officials -- both in South Carolina and across the nation -- have faced about their response to COVID-19 is the lack of testing in the early stages of the pandemic.
Now, many doctors’ offices and hospitals in the Palmetto State have said they can’t test more people because they don’t have enough tests. But many private manufacturers, including CPT Medical in Greenville, have been working to change this.
Every day, employees at CPT Medical walk into a sterile packing room wearing a gown, gloves, mask, and hair net where they pack about 10,000 test kits.
“It’s been very busy,” Teresa Wilson, an employee at CPT Medical said.
Wilson leads the team of CPT employees that have packed over 150,000 COVID-19 test kits over the last month.
“Most people can do about 500 to 700 kits a day,” Wilson said.
The kits have been going to hospitals and doctors’ offices right in the Midlands and across the state and country.
“At this point in time, it’s a process that’s needed,” Wilson said.
CPT Medical usually makes surgical kits for surgeries like knee replacements and c-sections, but that all changed when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“When we looked at the growth rate of this pandemic, we looked at the things we were already doing currently and what can we do to help,” Michael Conroy, the Premier Medical Vice President of Compliance, said.
Premiere Medical is the parent company of CPT Medical.
Conroy said what they heard from doctors and hospitals locally and nationally transformed their packing center into a COVID-19 test kit packing center devoted to making as many kits as hospitals and doctors’ offices need.
“They just didn’t have the collection supplies available. There wasn’t enough to meet the need of patients,” Conroy said.
He said there are a few different testing methods out there for COVID-19. The Nasopharyngeal swab is the CDC’s preferred method. The test uses a long swab that goes deep into the nasal cavity.
“There is a huge shortage in that. The supply chain for collection devices wasn’t ready for the need for this many tests so as manufacturers we looked at other options for collection,” Conroy said.
He said what CPT landed on was the nasal aspirate method. In the kits are a nasal catheter, sterile saline, a specimen cup, and directions.
“That’s a wash that goes up into the nasal cavity and flushes that specimen back out into a specimen device,” Conroy said.
This week, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control released how many people in South Carolina have been tested for COVID-19. As of Thursday afternoon, DHEC said 27,367 people have been tested with 2,792 people testing positive. But right now, DHEC estimates as many as 19,476 people have the virus and are just undiagnosed.
CPT Medical said they hope to help testing become more widely available.
“We are trying to take care of the folks here at home, but also we are seeing the need nationwide,” Conroy said.
Wilson said the days can be long, but it helps knowing what the kits are going to during this difficult time.
Conroy said that the CDC wants to make home testing available for COVID-19. The FDA has no approved any home kits yet, but Conroy said CPT Medical is working with the FDA to get approval.