SC Education Dept., State Supt. were ‘unaware’ of governor’s school testing kit announcement

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Updated: Nov. 20, 2020 at 5:32 PM EST
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - School districts in South Carolina will soon be getting rapid COVID-19 test kits. The kits will insure all students and staff can be tested regularly.

The announcement from Governor Henry McMaster comes as more than 3,000 COVID-19 cases have been associated to schools in the Palmetto State.

According to South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), there are more than 2,000 cases among students in South Carolina. and more than 900 cases among school staff.

The governor’s spokesperson says districts will not get the tests until after November 30th. How many tests each district gets depends on size.

Governor Henry McMaster said he would sign an executive order so the state’s health agency could provide them. The governor’s spokesperson tells me that should come in the next few days. He says it is crucial for schools to reopen safely, but quickly so students can get back to learning and social development.

”For every one of these closures, every action, every restriction there’s a real consequence and we have to be mindful of that. So we want those schools open,” says McMaster.

It was an announcement that sent excitement through Brandi Sanders. Sanders’ student is going back to the classroom for the first time since March.

”To me it relieves a lot of my stress and worry because at least I’ll know,” says Sanders.

Once the executive is signed, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control team will let nurses start training. District nurses will use Abbott’s 15-minute rapid antigen test. DHEC’s Interim Public Health Director Brannon Traxler says the first tests will be used on asymptomatic students and school staff.

Traxler says it will help students and school staff to stop missing as much school when quarantining. The tests gives Sanders the power of knowledge. ”Usually when people are catching this virus they’ve had it for one or two weeks and they spread it. So, the power of it is being able to stay ahead,” she says.

The state’s Education Department was not feeling that same empowerment. WBTV learned Friday afternoon that South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s school testing kit announcement shocked the South Carolina Department of Education.

“Neither our agency staff nor the State Superintendent were made aware of the Governor’s announcement yesterday evening,” says South Carolina Education Department (SCDE) spokesperson Ryan Brown.

The team working on the project had no idea about McMaster’s announcement. A spokesperson for the office says it “predated” a plan to districts across the state leaving them unable to answer any questions.

“We want all the schools to reopen and operate safely,” says McMaster.

A big part of McMaster’s plans for schools depends on those tests, which Brown says SCDE does not have a final plan for.

“Schools and districts do not yet have finalized guidance on the use and distribution of the test kits,” says Brown.

The rushed announcement cause the timeline to be in question too. ”Our goal is to have these for the week after thanksgiving,” says Trexler. Brown says tests will not start going out until the final plan is approved. Sanders says she will wait as long as it takes.

”It just makes me feel like they care and I can trust them with my child,” says Sanders.

Brown did not give a timeline when those tests might go out. He says the plan should be done as soon as possible.

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