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DHEC ramps up COVID-19 rapid testing efforts, CDC increases potential outbreak tracking

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Published: Feb. 5, 2022 at 7:22 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 5, 2022 at 7:23 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -This week, South Carolina households began receiving their COVID-19 rapid test kits from the federal government. This comes as DHEC urges more unvaccinated students to take rapid tests if they’ve been exposed to COVID, but aren’t showing symptoms, through the ‘Test to Stay’ program.

“Rather than immediately moving those unvaccinated, close contact students to quarantine if they’re exposed. Test to Stay allows those students to stay in the classroom,” said DHEC Director of Public Health Dr. Brannon Traxler.

Meanwhile, Pfizer has requested emergency use authorization of its two-dose vaccine regimen for children under five years old.

“Pfizer’s application will now undergo the same independent, rigorous, and transparent review process that was used to authorize the vaccines that now more than 250 million Americans have received, including millions of children, ages five and up,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.

Another vaccine may soon be available in the U.S. as Maryland-based company Novavax has requested FDA authorization for its protein-based COVID vaccine that is already in use in at least 170 countries.

The protein-based vaccine differs from Pfizer and Moderna’s MRNA offerings because the Novavax shot does not currently have links to an increased risk of myocarditis, especially in young men who take the shot.

Although a new omicron subvariant has emerged, called BA.2, health experts say current vaccines should work similarly as they do with the omicron, or BA.1 variant.

“What we know about BA.2 so far is that it does have a modest transmission advantage over BA.1. However, it’s not nearly the transmission advantage that we’ve seen between omicron and delta. In terms of early studies, we have not seen any studies that suggest it’s more severe,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

To stay ahead of other new variants, the CDC is expanding its wastewater tracking program to include 250 more sites on top of the 400 already in practice across the country. One testing site is in Darlington County.

Researchers from the CDC say tracking COVID through wastewater is an important way to access health of communities.

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