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DHEC to close testing sites, stop daily case reporting

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Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 10:57 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2022 at 7:44 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Dept. of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has announced its plan to gradually close testing sites and stop reporting daily COVID-19 data due to the widespread availability of rapid at-home tests and a decrease in demand for drive-thru PCR testing, according to DHEC Director of Public Health Dr. Brannon Traxler.

“So we’re going to be shifting away from our drive-thru or drive-up PCR testing sites and more towards handing out rapid tests that are going to be available at all of our health departments like they have been so that people can get tested in the convenience of their home,” said Traxler.

It’s also a shift of mindset from pandemic to endemic.

“I think that the goal for much of this with COVID-19 is as we recognize it’s going to be here with us. But, we’re aiming to get it endemic--to have more of an approach similar to what we do for influenza,” said Traxler.

A statement from DHEC states:

A prime driver of these changes is that with increased availability of rapid antigen testing, it is now the most effective testing tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help people make informed decisions about whether to isolate.

DHEC’s primary role with COVID-19, as with all other disease outbreaks, is to protect public health by providing accurate information and ensuring access to resources including testing and treatment which reduce the impact of disease on all South Carolinians.

DHEC officials stated that the state is seeing a decrease in cases and hospitalizations from the peak of the Omicron surge. Therefore, testing efforts will focus on people who are symptomatic or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Since at-home testing is not reportable, DHEC will stop reporting daily case counts on March 15. Deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 will be reported on a weekly basis.

Officials said:

DHEC is confident that these changes will ensure South Carolinians continue to have the resources and information they need to make informed decisions and protect themselves and their families from COVID-19.

The following changes in DHEC’s COVID-19 testing strategy will occur in stages, beginning March 1:

• March 1-14: Gradual closure of DHEC-managed vendor testing sites in all counties with five or more non-DHEC PCR test providers such as primary care providers, pharmacies, federally qualified health centers, hospitals, mobile providers, etc.

• March 15: Change the frequency and type of data reporting to once per week rather than every weekday to best track where the virus’ impact is most severe.

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