GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – As more and more people are lining up at COVID-19 testing sites across the state, in some cases, tests are piling up waiting to be processed.
“We’re in a little bit of a log jam right now, but just to be patient. Be careful. We’ve come this far,” said Governor Henry McMaster.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said recently, the state saw a huge increase in testing.
DHEC released the following statement on Friday:
“Because of the enormous testing demand fueled by the delta and omicron surge, DHEC and other testing providers and laboratories are experiencing longer lines for individuals to get tested. We are working to reduce wait times by making home tests available and increasing the number of testing sites.
The overwhelming majority of COVID tests ― about 97% ― are processed at large, non-DHEC labs that are operating at or above capacity. DHEC’s lab has a daily capacity of 2,500 samples and the Public Health Lab is operating at that capacity and currently not experiencing any delays.
DHEC has contracts with nine testing vendors across the state to perform COVID-19 testing. As part of their contracts, these vendors are to relay test results to the individuals who were tested within 48-72 hours, and if there is a consistent delay in that turnaround time, the vendors are to quickly notify DHEC.
The week of Dec. 27, 2021, South Carolina had an enormous increase in testing. Most of our contractors managed this well and maintained the 48–72-hour standard. Unfortunately, Premier Medical Laboratory, which is one of DHEC’s contracted testing providers, didn’t immediately notify DHEC that they were experiencing delays in providing test results. 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. Premier is actively working to make up for the delayed results, however we know that some individuals have still not received their test results.”
“With this Omicron variants, labs across the nation are experiencing delays, and this virus is more transmissible than any variant that we have seen,” said Kristina Loughrey, Director of Communications, Premier Medical Laboratory Services .”So we went from a certain amount of tests one day, and then overnight, it jumped about 400% and it’s steadily risen to over the last three weeks, we’ve seen a 700% increase in the tests that we are getting. So it kind of came out of nowhere,” Loughrey said. “The more tests that we get coming in, more people are getting tested before more people are getting the virus, and so overnight, we saw an exponential increase,” she said. “So that is what caused a delay in our test results,” Loughrey said.
Premier Medical Laboratory Services (PMLS), said it’s hiring hundreds of people to help with the demand.
“We have been diligently hiring hundreds. We’ve hired already over 200 people to enter data and process these COVID tests,” Loughrey said. “We have invested millions of dollars in automation equipment, which helps us speed up the process. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we implemented the automation equipment into our laboratory to handle the demands of the of the pandemic, and as we’ve seen with the Omicron variant, we’re seeing the amount of tests coming in, is like we’ve never seen before. So that is why we’ve added more equipment, more automation equipment and a lot more staff,” Loughrey said.
Premier Medical staff said since the surge in cases, they made the invested and expanding parts of their lab.
“We are expanding, and we know that these tests effect people’s lives and the decisions that they’re making on a daily bases, whether they should be out in public or not, and we take that seriously, and that’s why we’re doing everything in our power to add the equipment, and add the staffing needed, so that we can meet those demands and get those results to people,” Loughrey said.
Premier Medical also said it’s seeing another issue too.
“One issue has been that, some of the times when the data is entered from the testing site, it’s not being entered properly. So when we get it here, sometimes we can’t get that result to that person, if that test is not attributed to that person at the testing site,” Loughrey said.
Loughrey said before the surge, they were providing results within 24 to 48 hours.
“Before this surge, we were steadily providing are results within a 24 to 48 hour timeframe, and that’s something that we plan to get back to within the next week to two weeks,” Loughrey said. “We are processing results 24 hours a day, and we have shifts of people coming in and processing those tests 24 hours a day,” she said. “We are doing everything we can to get to every last test that comes through this door and to deliver that, as quickly as we possibly can to everyone,” Loughrey said. “We do know it’s important to get your tests results and we are working 24/7 to get those tests results to you.”
DHEC sent a recommendation for those still waiting on tests across the state.
“Because of this, DHEC is recommending that anyone tested between Dec. 30, 2021, and Jan. 3, 2022, who has not yet received their results and is currently symptomatic to get re-tested at one of the many testing sites around the state to ensure they receive timely, valid results,” the release said.
Premier Medical staff said it’s looking to hire at least 100 more people per each shift. To see how you can help out and gain a job, click here.