South Carolina’s lead agency responding to the 2019-2020 coronavirus pandemic is planning to provide zip code information to local officials regarding individuals who have tested positive for the virus – but not the name and address information sought by local governments.
According to a letter from Richard Toomey – director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) – the agency is “providing the zip codes of only those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in South Carolina.”
“There are many more people in the community who have the disease who have never been tested,” Toomey wrote in a letter to the leaders of the S.C. Association of Counties. “(SC)DHEC does not know who these people are or where they live.”
That is certainly true …
As we have noted from the beginning of our coverage of the pandemic, SCDHEC’s public health laboratory has been conducting only limited testing at this point. Furthermore, the agency has not included comprehensive test results from private labs in its daily case updates. Finally, the confirmed or presumed positive cases obtained from both sources – private labs and government testing centers – obviously are not representative of the total number of South Carolinians who have been infected by the virus.
Toomey acknowledged all of this in his letter to county leaders. He also acknowledged that the agency “is not notified when individuals are no longer infectious (i.e., they are well).”
“Therefore, the numbers (SC)DHEC will provide by zip code will not include all infected people and will contain some who no longer pose any risk to others,” Toomey wrote.
Why is SCDHEC not receiving this information? Good question …
The lack of timely, comprehensive data related to the spread of this virus – and its seriousness on a case-by-case basis – has likely factored into the disjointed state response to the pandemic (and to the ensuing panic among the populace).
This news outlet has raised questions regarding the dearth of information being provided by SCDHEC – however we acknowledge that the agency is dealing with an unprecedented situation and are, accordingly, cutting it some slack.
Toomey addressed his letter to county leaders after they petitioned governor Henry McMaster – who appoints the board that oversees SCDHED – to release specific “location information” of positive coronavirus cases in an effort to help first responders. One legislative leader told us several local government associations had gone to McMaster actually seeking “names” of those who tested positive.
Another source told us the groups want “addresses,” not names.
Toomey is declining to provide either, instead vowing to turn over zip code information on a rolling, two-week basis “as soon as possible.”
Toomey also told county leaders that “any individual who tests positive for COVID-19 in South Carolina and calls 911 is subject to (SC)DHEC’s isolation and quarantine directive which requires the person to notify 911 there is an infected person at the location.”
Perhaps the most critical section of Toomey’s letter?
This paragraph …
South Carolina is moving from a disease containment strategy to a disease mitigation strategy based upon evidence of continued increasing transmission. In a mitigation phase, testing strategies transition from attempting to test all possible cases in a community to testing a reasonable sample of those who are ill. The goal becomes monitoring disease spread in a community, not identifying every case. Consequently, the gap between (SC)DHEC’s knowledge of the tested and lack of knowledge of the untested will continue to expand.
On Wednesday afternoon, SCDHEC announced another 82 confirmed positive cases of coronavirus in South Carolina, bringing the statewide total to 424 total cases.
As of this writing, eight South Carolinians have died as a result of exposure to the virus.
Nationwide, there have been at least 59,500 confirmed coronavirus cases with 804 fatalities, per a database maintained by The New York Times. More than half of those cases – nearly 31,000 – come from the state of New York.
This news outlet is committed to giving our readers the very latest, most relevant information we have regarding this unfolding global story. To check out more of our coronavirus coverage, click on the link below …
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