South Carolina health officials to test all residents and staff at nursing homes for COVID-19

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 8:45 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) - South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and health officials spoke about an extensive plan to increase COVID-19 testing in South Carolina, especially for those at higher risk for developing severe complications from the virus.

Contact tracing and testing will be increased, so McMaster says you can expect to see more positive tests. In order to return to regular life, officials say there needs be more testing.

The federal government has committed to providing DHEC with testing supplies to test 2 percent of South Carolina’s population during the months of May and June. The goal is to test 2 percent of the population or 110,000 South Carolinians per month.

Health officials announced that they will test residents and staff members at every nursing home in the state for COVID-19.

“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.”

Beginning next week, DHEC - with testing support from LabCorp and extensive coordination and cooperation from the two primary associations that represent nursing homes, will begin a phased testing approach to include approximately 40,000 residents and staff members at the 194 nursing homes in the state.

The first phase will begin May 11 with approximately 15,000 residents and staff at 74 facilities.

The statewide testing of the 194 facilities is anticipated to be complete by the end of May. The facilities have been notified of this testing plan, and DHEC staff are working with facilities to answer any questions or concerns ahead of the testing roll out.

The extensive testing plan focuses on four key testing areas:

  1. Universal testing of nursing home residents and staff.
  2. Expanding testing in under resourced, minority and rural communities.
  3. Conducting mass testing in urban areas.
  4. Finding additional testing sites.

In addition to providing universal testing, several measures have been implemented statewide to protect residents and staff at nursing homes. All nursing homes are required to report COVID-19 infections to DHEC.

Approximately 40,000 South Carolina residents live or work in the state’s 194 nursing homes. While protections have been put in place, the number of infections in long term care facilities continues to grow.

The number of fatalities among long term care facility residents is also growing. According to Dr. Joan Duwve, as of Tuesday, 851 cases were reported in these facilities which equals about 12 percent of all COVID-19 cases in South Carolina.

DHEC will also be increasing testing in other congregate facilities like prisons, jails, and group homes.

Gov. McMaster mentioned he’s looking at making another announcement about reopenings by the end of the week. He says he’s weighing safety right now.

South Carolina currently has 6,936 coronavirus cases and 305 virus-related deaths.

The total number of S.C. cases in the WBTV viewing area by county include:

  • Chester County: 35 cases
  • Chesterfield County: 65 cases
  • Lancaster County: 99 total cases
  • York County: 221 cases

Officials reported that a COVID-19 positive York County resident died in Fort Mill late Monday afternoon. DHEC also notified officials that another resident York County resident died at a Charlotte Hospital with complications related to COVID 19.

On March 13, Gov. McMaster issued an Executive Order that stopped public visitation to nursing homes in order to help protect the vulnerable population of residents, staff and visitors. This order is still in effect today.

Health officials Monday released new graphs showing trends in reported confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the last 28- and 14-days, respectively.

The projections currently indicate that South Carolina may see almost 1,000 new cases per week by mid-May. The total number of cases is estimated to grow to 9,652 confirmed cases on May 23.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved.