DHEC, UofSC roll out new, random COVID-19 testing program

DHEC, UofSC roll out new, random COVID-19 testing program

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is working with the University of South Carolina to mail out invitations for a free COVID-19 test to random people across the state.

The blue envelopes with the invitations are being sent to 32,500 random people across the state across all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. DHEC says ages five and older could be selected.

The project is called “South Carolina Strong” and it aims is to get a more accurate idea of how many people in South Carolina have been infected with the coronavirus, according to the project’s website.

“We are starting to see lower numbers of people coming out and getting testing. And we don’t know if that’s because there are certain communities that have been hardest hits, so there is less transition or if there are certain communities that we may be missing,” said Dr. Melissa Nolan, an assistant professor at UofSC who is working on this initiative.

If you receive the envelope, the project asks you to do two things: fill out a health survey online or by calling in to the number provided and going to a DHEC-approved location to get tested. The testing is a nasal swab and results will be processed by DHEC in 24 to 48 hours.

The antibody and virus tests are free, voluntary, and confidential according to DHEC.

“This is going to help us understand what the true active infection rate in our state. Not just among those seeking testing, but among all those residents who are being randomly selected,” Nolan said. “And the antibody testing aspect will help us understand where we are seeing pockets of population that have a large protection and immunity and others who are more vulnerable.”

The first round of letters has been sent out, but DHEC says they plan to send the envelopes out quarterly until Fall 2021.

To make sure the results received are an accurate reflection of South Carolina’s population, Nolan said they will do a more targeted second round of testing in groups that were not properly represented.

“This going to help our state public health officials and legislature to understand how we can start moving forward. And what communities might be more vulnerable or might need more protection as we start to open the state and schools,” she explained.

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