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Health leaders urge S.C. schools to use ‘Test to Stay’ program

To help schools, DHEC is sending 300,000 rapid tests to school districts this week. Another 1.6 million tests are on order.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is urging schools districts to implement a “test to stay” program.
Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 7:49 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is urging schools districts to implement a “test to stay” program.

Parents have struggled with quarantining especially when they feel his or her student is healthy.

”They need to be in the classroom,” says one parent. “They are losing out on class time.”

Computer screen classrooms and days sitting at home have been all too common for students in the COVID age. Quarantines have mounted in all four of our school districts as students get exposed and sent back home. Parents say it is putting a strain on learning.

”I mean we moved here so he could get a good education and now I feel like that’s being ripped back away,” says another parent.

According to DHEC, it will allow more kids to stay in school.

Related: S.C. schools now operating with relaxed DHEC guidelines on quarantining amid staffing shortage

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental leaders say a new testing program will help parents and students not feel so torn.

”We believe the Test to Stay program is the best way to accomplish that goal,” says Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler.

Traxler says this new program will keep students in their desks.

The program would allow schools to use rapid tests on K through 12 students who’ve been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, but don’t have symptoms.

If the rapid test is negative between days five and seven and the student doesn’t have symptoms, they’re allowed to stay in the classroom. A second test is given 24 hours after the first.

But it is not without parent concerns, especially about false negative tests, something I asked Traxler about.

”The individual risks is still low of false negatives and false positives. Especially when you’re looking at each individual child in a single test the chances or rate is very low then,” says Traxler.

And while there is the potential a student could test positive on day five, Traxler says it is better to know in advance than to not know at all. But Traxler says the mask requirement in that case should help ease those concerns.

”By doing this layered strategy we feel like it can take down the risk to an acceptable level when looking at and thinking about the benefit of keeping children in person,” she says.

To help schools, DHEC is sending 300,000 rapid tests to school districts this week. Another 1.6 million tests are on order.

“We are aware that several school districts have concerns about updates to our COVID-19 school guidance and our School and Childcare Exclusion List. We know that their goal is to keep more students in schools,” Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC’s director, said. “DHEC shares in that goal and is ensuring that schools and parents have access to rapid tests so school systems can fully implement TTS, which allows most students to remain in school. This is the most effective way to maximize learning without sacrificing our students and teachers’ well-being.”

DHEC officials are also asking schools to accept results of those at-home COVID-19 tests.

Lancaster County schools do participate in this program; parents must consent to the testing. WBTV is reaching out to our other South Carolina school districts to see if they plan to implement it as well.

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