South Carolina ranks low for COVID-19 tests based on population

Updated: Apr. 15, 2020 at 5:45 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina has tested more than 33,000 residents since the beginning of March.

In the last few weeks, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) has reported an influx of testing.

Part of the influx is attributed to SCDHEC including private lab’s negative tests in its daily COVID-19 test reports.

Despite the increase, the state still lags behind other areas of the nation for testing.

WMBF analyzed national testing data from the COVID Tracking Project and compared it to 2019 U.S. Census estimates to discover the Palmetto State ranks 40th for number of tests administered per 10,000 people.

The analysis is based on data available on April 15 and is subject to change slightly as testing data increases daily across the country.

As of April 15, SC. administered about 65 tests for every 10,000 residents. The rate places it above North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia.

However, some of the top states for testing - New York, Louisiana and Rhode Island - performed more than 200 tests for every 10,000 people.

Kansas, Virginia, Texas and California rank at the bottom for number of COVID-19 tests conducted; each reportedly tested around 50 of every 10,000 residents.

Supplies needed to test and COVID-19 test kits have been sparse across the country, leading to major restrictions on who can get a test.

Over the last month, many people who have shown symptoms have expressed frustration over not being cleared for COVID-19 testing both in South Carolina and across the country.

“Just as I talked about overwhelming the healthcare system and resources, we can overwhelm the number of testing kits. There is still not an infinite number of testing kits,” Dr. Gerald Harmon with Tidelands Health told WMBF in the middle of March.

Many medical experts have said for weeks increased testing is needed to get a better understanding of the virus, and determine the best way to ease things back to normal.

“Right now, there is a general feeling that we are no way of capturing the full magnitude of the number of cases out there,” Dr. Bill Hinnant, an adjunct professor at Clemson University and general counsel for Labtech Diagnostics, told WMBF News on Friday. “The most important thing in winning this war against the virus is testing, testing, testing.”

New COVID-19 tests, like antibody tests, being developed promise faster and cheaper alternatives that could be one solution to increasing test capabilities across the United States.

A WMBF analysis of positive COVID-19 cases per population discovered many of the states with the most cases per people were the same states that reported the most testing.

New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts ranked as the top three for positive cases per population and also conducted the most testing relative to size.

North Carolina and South Carolina ranked in the middle of the country for cases based on population. S.C. has around seven COVID-19 cases per 10,000 people while N.C. has around five.

Georgia ranks 12th for the number of positive cases but 46th for tests performed.

States ranking low in testing may have far more positive COVID-19 cases than reported because of a limitation in testing and restricting patients.

SCDHEC predicts there will be 8,677 cases in South Carolina by May 2.

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