DHEC announces plan to test residents, staff members at all SC nursing homes

McMaster said state leaders have a detailed plan for testing and contact tracing.
Updated: May. 6, 2020 at 4:22 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has announced it will test all residents and staff members at nursing homes across the state.

Starting next week, DHEC will start a phased testing approach for all 194 nursing homes in South Carolina. That includes 40,000 nursing home residents and staff members will be tested for COVID-19 through this initiative.

“Many of us have family, friends, and loved ones in these types of care facilities,” said DHEC Director Rick Toomey. “Across the country, COVID-19 has drastically impacted the residents and workers at nursing homes, and 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.”

The first phase is scheduled to begin May 11 with about 15,000 residents and staffers at 74 facilities. Most of these facilities volunteered to be tested in the first phase.

“Asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 from staff to residents and between residents is a concern in nursing homes,” said Dr. Joan Duwve, DHEC Director of Public Health. “Universal testing in these facilities will allow us to better identify residents with asymptomatic infection in order to cohort infected patients and further reduce the spread of COVID-19 from patients with no signs of illness.”

DHEC has also set up the following measures to protect residents and staff members at nursing homes in South Carolina:

  • Frontline epidemiologists contact the facility to collect preliminary information about residents and staff.
  • Frontline staff connects the facilities with DHEC Infection Preventionists who provide facility-specific consultations.
  • Guidance is provided about how to assess possible exposures, restriction of activities, isolation and quarantine measures, appropriate use of personal protective equipment and disease monitoring in staff and residents to rapidly detect additional cases.

DHEC has a list of the number of coronavirus cases in long-term care facilities across the state that it updates twice a week. Click or tap here to see the update from May 4.

On Wednesday, Sen. Tim Scott issued the following statement regarding DHEC’s plan to test residents and staff members for COVID-19 across the state:

“Increased testing is absolutely critical as our state begins to reopen. Last week, I wrote Governor McMaster regarding the immediate importance of testing in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, and I am pleased that DHEC’s plan to ramp up testing tackles this issue directly. Across the world, nursing homes have time and time again turned into hotspots for the spread of the virus, making it clear they are an essential starting point as tests become more widely available. I commend the Governor and his team for getting this plan together quickly, and look forward to this increased testing enhancing our ability to stop the spread of COVID-19 in South Carolina.”

At this point, the executive order issued by Gov. Henry McMaster to prohibit public visitation at nursing homes remains in effect.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.