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DHEC to test all residents, staff for COVID-19 at S.C. nursing homes

COVID-19 testing.
COVID-19 testing.(Pixabay)
Published: May. 7, 2020 at 9:12 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced on Wednesday it will test residents and staff members at every nursing home in the state for the coronavirus.

Gov. Henry McMaster was joined by state health officials on Monday to announce the plan.

The extensive testing plan is part of the agency’s ongoing effort to help those who are at a higher risk of developing severe complications from the virus.

“Many of us have family, friends and loved ones in these types of care facilities,” said DHEC Director Rick Toomey. “Across the country, COVID-19 has drastically impacted the residents and workers at nursing homes, and we want South Carolinians to know that DHEC is doing everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially for the vulnerable populations who reside at these care facilities.”

Starting next week, DHEC will begin a phased testing approach to include 40,000 residents and staff at 194 nursing homes in the state.

The first phase will begin on May 11 with 15,000 residents and staff at 74 facilities. A majority of the facilities volunteered to be tested in Phase One.

The statewide testing of all facilities is expected to be completed by the end of May.

Coronavirus outbreaks at long-term care facilities have become an indicator of how the virus can be contracted within a community and require intense focus on infection prevention and practices. “Asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 from staff to residents and between residents is a concern in nursing homes,” said Dr. Joan Duwve, DHEC Director of Public Health. “Universal testing in these facilities will allow us to better identify residents with asymptomatic infection in order to cohort infected patients and further reduce the spread of COVID-19 from patients with no signs of illness.”

This announcement comes just one day after DHEC released an updated list of residential care facilities in South Carolina where at least one positive coronavirus case has been detected.

RELATED COVERAGE | DHEC releases list of nursing homes, extended-care facilities impacted by COVID-19

The Carlyle Senior Care facility in Florence has the most cases in our area with 71 confirmed coronavirus cases.

There are 77 facilities where residents or staff have tested positive for coronavirus and there have been a total of 851 cases and 84 deaths.

Duwve added that the number of infections in those facilities is 851, or 12% of all COVID-19 cases in S.C. There have also been 84 deaths in those facilities, she said.

According to DHEC officials, S.C. will need to increase its testing per capita in order to begin a safe transition back to a sense of normalcy. To assist in this, the federal government is providing enough swab and testing supplies to test 2% of the state’s population between May and June, they said.

Officials added that mobile testing sites will also be used in rural communities, and pop-up testing events will take place in the state’s more urban areas of Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville-Spartanburg.

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