Tidelands Health tests 2,500 people during massive COVID-19 testing event at CCU

Tidelands Health says free testing is key to getting control of coronavirus

CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - Tidelands Health held Horry County’s largest coronavirus testing event to date on Friday.

The hospital system partnered with Coastal Carolina University and the Department of Health and Environmental Control and tested 2,500 people for coronavirus in a matter of hours.

Tidelands Health Chief Operating Officer Gayle Resetar said it’s crucial to have accessible and widespread testing events like the one on Friday.

“Because every testing event has a higher positive rate, higher number of people, the percentage of people who are tested, is higher than it was at earlier events, we are now starting to see those people become hospitalized,” she said.

And that higher rate and hospitalizations are exactly why it is so crucial to have accessible testing.

Resetar said accessibility doesn’t just mean easy access. She said it also means free of charge. Resetar said if the tests weren’t free, less people would come, letting the virus spread undetected.

So DHEC has sharply increased its spending on supplies and personnel to make this sort of widespread testing possible.

Back in March, the state agency was spending just around $838,000 on supplies. Three months into the pandemic, that number has risen to just under $6 million total.

DHEC’s Public Outreach Coordinator for the Pee Dee region said the agency had to rapidly hire to account for handling the influx of tests for the state laboratory.

Tidelands Health officials said without help from DHEC, they couldn’t test this many people for free.

South Carolina did get some money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to put toward testing.

Online records show the state got at least $8.9 million from HHS.

DHEC has spent a total of $13 million so far on coronavirus response but it’s unclear how much of the federal money the agency has used or if more is on the way.

Still, Resetar said testing this many people is difficult even with the help from DHEC.

“I don’t think there’s really any other lab that could do this. I really don’t think so. Certainly, we couldn’t. We offer a limited number of tests in house,” she said.

Right now Tidelands and DHEC are still solidifying details for testing events in July.

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