Coronavirus

South Carolina To Test Two Percent Of Population For COVID-19 In May And June, Officials Say

“This is a large effort that I am confident will produce results and enable us to get back to work,” McMaster said.

McMaster

On Wednesday, South Carolina officials announced an aggressive plan to ramp up COVID-19 testing efforts as the Palmetto State lagged behind most of the nation in testing per capita.

Gov. Henry McMaster and S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) officials introduced a multi-step plan with the goal of testing 110,000 residents per month or 2 percent of the population within the next two months.

Dr. Joan Duwve of SCDHEC said that 1.25 percent of the population has been tested so far.

State officials plan to expand testing and contract tracing efforts —essentially an investigation into all the contacts of a person who tested positive for COVID-19 to find the hotspots and aggressively prevent the disease for spreading.

SCDHEC plans to hire 780 more “contract tracers” for these efforts, Duwve said. As of Wednesday, SCDHEC had 220 contract tracers.

For it’s testing efforts, health officials will focus on the following:

  • Universal testing for all nursing home residents and workers.
  • Expanding testing in rural areas and minority communities disproportionally affected by COVID-19
  • Mass testing in urban areas
  • Discovering new hotspots and testing sites

The testing supplies are being provided by the federal government, officials said in the Wednesday press conference.

As testing increases, McMaster said officials expect a higher number of cases.

“This is a large effort that I am confident will produce results and enable us to get back to work,” McMaster said. “This is a big step forward and there will be more steps.”

South Carolina has lagged for weeks now when it comes to coronavirus testing per capita — as of Tuesday, the Palmetto State ranked No. 45 nationally in terms of completed tests per 100,000 residents, according to the COVID-19 tracking project.

Duwve said the increased testing will allow officials to test and track those who just have the milder symptoms of the disease, as opposed to those severe symptoms.

“Testing and tracing is how we are going to control the disease…” McMaster said. “The disease has been chasing us, now we want to chase the disease…It is that knowledge that will enable us to open up. “

Several non-essential businesses such as gyms and salons remain shut down in South Carolina in the coronavirus pandemic.

Those non-essential businesses have been forced to close since March 31, per McMaster’s previous order. McMaster said Wednesday news on reopening some of those businesses could come this week.

On Friday, McMaster issued an executive order Friday lifting his previously imposed “home or work” mandate and allowing restaurants to reopen outdoor dining services starting Monday.

Restaurants could reopen as long as they follow a list of guidelines such as spacing tables eight feet apart.

On Friday, McMaster also removed previous orders on short-term rentals that had banned people from COVID-19 hotspots (including the New York tri-state area). Visitors from those areas no longer have to self- quarantine for the next two weeks, McMaster said Friday.

As of Wednesday, South Carolina had more than 6,900 COVID-19 cases and more than 300 deaths according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC). The state had tested 77,482 people for COVID-19 in total.

Two weeks ago, McMaster cancelled his previous order that closed public access points to beaches across the state in the COVID-19 crisis.

The order gave the power back to local governments to decide when they will open up public access to beaches. 

Municipalities across the state from Myrtle Beach to Hilton Head Island have handled this differently. Here’s our list of all the S.C. beaches that are opening and COVID-19 laws to know.

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