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SC Senator Requests Military Assistance For COVID-19 Testing Due To DHEC’s ‘Limitations’

Could the military help with South Carolina’s COVID-19 testing problems?

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In a letter addressed to a few of South Carolina’s most powerful lawmakers and military leaders, Senator Tom Davis has requested military assistance for Beaufort County’s future COVID-19 testing events.

As we previously reported, South Carolina health officials are still failing to provide widespread and timely testing to properly mitigate and eventually suppress the rapidly spreading virus.

South Carolina, the No. 3 hotspot in the world for new COVID-19 cases, ranks 35th in the nation for COVID-19 tests per capita and 48th in the U.S. for percent of positive tests, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Not only is the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) not testing enough, but labs across the state have been backed up for weeks and a majority of test results are taking about a week.

Davis has been working relentlessly on increasing testing in Beaufort County — one of many coastal counties that has seen surging cases this summer.

On Memorial Day, Beaufort County had 342 COVID-19 cases. By this weekend, it had more than 2,000 cases.

Despite Beaufort County’s surging COVID-19 cases, Davis said that when he requested for SCDHEC to run these events, interim director Marshall Taylor told him “the administration of tests by DHEC on any significant scale is problematic because of the limited number of DHEC staff that can collect specimens.”

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Complicating matters, DHEC’s lab capacity has been “overwhelmed,” according to Davis.

“In many instances results from tests that have been conducted were not relayed to those tested for up to a week or longer, thereby reducing the healthcare benefits associated with the testing,” Davis said in the letter.

Davis urged state leaders to deploy more support to Beaufort County, due to its unique population. Hilton Head Island is Beaufort County’s largest town, with 39,000 residents and more than 2.5 million annual visitors. In the last few weeks, the virus has hit the hospitality industry on Hilton Head, as FITSNews previously reported.

“Beaufort County’s economy relies heavily on tourism and its resident population includes many who are particularly vulnerable to the virus, and that makes comprehensive and recurring viral testing essential for its residents’ health and economic success,” Davis wrote.

Because of SCDHEC’s “stated limitations” when it comes to testing, Davis requested military assistance at the next four Beaufort County testing events.

senate-letter-requesting-military-assistance-with-covid-19-tests

“I respectfully request that the resources of the two military installations in the county — MCAS Beaufort and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island — be deployed to assist state and local officials with drive-thru testing events for the weeks of August 10, August 17, August 24, and August 31,” Davis wrote in the letter addressed to Senator Tim Scott, Senator Lindsey Graham, Rep. Joe Cunningham, Gov. Henry McMaster, as well as MCAS Beaufort and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island officials.

Despite the $43 million SCDHEC received to increase COVID-10 testing in South Carolina, the health department has very few future events planned in which they are the providers.

Davis mentioned in his letter that other states are using military support to help with coronavirus response.

The U.S. military announced earlier this week it was deploying medical personnel to help at hospitals in Texas, another hotspot for the disease in the U.S.

At-Risk Region

The Hilton Head Island region is one of the most vulnerable areas in the United States for hospitals being overwhelmed by a COVID-19 outbreak, according to a news analysis by Five Thirty Eight

Five Thirty Eight analyzed the number of at-risk residents in metropolitan areas across the United States, combined with the number of hospitals and ICU beds in those regions for its study.

“By that measure, one of the most vulnerable regions for which we have data is the Hilton Head Island metropolitan area, where about 63 percent of adults are at high risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 and there are approximately 3,900 high-risk individuals for every ICU bed,” author Likhitha Butchireddygari wrote in the Five Thirty Eight story.

The “Hilton Head region” referred to by Five Thirty Eight covers both Beaufort and Jasper Counties and consists of three hospitals—Beaufort Memorial, Hilton Head Hospital, and Coastal Carolina.

Those hospitals combined have 28 ICU beds and 329 total beds, according to the Island Packet.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Want to contact Mandy? Send your story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].

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