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DHEC warns of lag time for COVID-19 test results fueled by omicron surge

GETTING ANSWERS: At-home COVID-19 TESTS
GETTING ANSWERS: At-home COVID-19 TESTS
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 11:56 AM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said due to the recent surge fueled by the delta and omicron variants, testing providers and laboratories are experiencing longer lines for individuals to get tested and longer turnaround times to produce results.

According to DHEC, there continue to be an average of 300 testing locations around the state on a given day.

“The testing call center and Care Line have seen a dramatic increase in call volume and emails, and staff are working to return messages and voicemails as soon as possible. People should leave only ONE email or ONE voicemail only to reduce the amount of messages,” DHEC said in a statement.

DHEC said it anticipated and prepared for the influx of testing, but the timing of omicron occurring over the holidays further escalated testing demand.

The Public Health Lab is running at near-max capacity each day for the number of samples it can process -- 2,200-2,500, according to DHEC. However, the amount the PHL is capable of processing is a very small amount compared to the amount of testing going on in the state right now.

About 97% of all the test samples in the state are being processed at other labs, not DHEC, and those labs are dealing with the massive influx in testing demand and that is contributing to delayed turn-around times.

DHEC also said one of those laboratories, Premier Medical Laboratory “didn’t immediately notify DHEC that they were experiencing delays in providing test results” during the week of Dec. 27, 2021.

“After DHEC learned this, the agency contacted Premier for more information and to work toward solutions for getting results relayed back to individuals as quickly as possible,” the agency wrote. “Premier is actively working to make up for the delayed results, however, we know that some individuals have still not received their test results.”

As a result, DHEC is recommending anyone who is feeling currently symptomatic and has not received a result for a test that occurred between Dec. 30, 2021, and Jan. 3, 2022, to get another test.

“We know people are frustrated about long lines and the turnaround time for test results, but if more people were vaccinated, this surge and subsequent demand for testing likely wouldn’t be as drastic as it is,” DHEC said in a statement.

DHEC ordered almost half a million additional COVID-19 rapid tests, which will be available to distribute in our communities in the coming days and weeks and should help reduce wait and reporting times.

Find a vaccine provider near you at scdhec.gov/vaxlocator.

Find a testing location near you at scdhec.gov/findatest.

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