COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- South Carolina lawmakers want health officials to ramp up testing. It’s an issue that’s been brought up by every industry in the state during the reopening process.
Wednesday, lawmakers on a special committee focused on testing heard directly from health officials about what’s stopping the state from doing more tests.
“We have not been successful in this state to tackle this virus. I think everybody knows it. I think we need to admit it.”
Senator Vincent Sheheen has seen the state’s COVID-19 testing and tracing limitations first hand.
Sheheen serves Kershaw County, where the first cases of the coronavirus were reported.
Senator Sheheen continued, “My experience with the tracing has been very disappointed from the get go.”
The state is striving to test 10% of the population each month. But health officials told lawmakers variables are in the way of meeting that goal, like an increased demand for PPE.
Senator Tom Davis asked Dr. Joan Duwve, DHEC’s Director of Public Health, “So is your ability to stand additional tests constrained by lack of PPE?” Dr. Duwve replied, “If we want to do more than we are doing, I would say yes.”
Staffing is also an issue. More tests means more people to administer the tests. More positive tests means more people to trace the patient’s footsteps.
Dr. Patrick Cawley with the Medical University of South Carolina talked about some of the staffing limitations. “Medical technicians run these tests. There was a shortage before COVID-19 and now there is an increased need because of COVID-19.
Sheheen added, “It was made clear that the personnel just wasn’t there to do robust tracing.”
DHEC explained current proposals in the works to solve some of those issues, like a contract for an additional 1000 specimen collectors. There are also talks about expanding the scope of practice for some health fields.
Dr. Duwve explained, “The flexibility of expanding scope of practice. We’ve had dentists ask can we help with specimen collection. That would really go a long way to help DHEC.”
Right now, the state is testing more than 5% of the state’s population each month, which is an increase from the previous 2% target goal. The state can process 2000 test kits a day at the moment.
Officials are also working on rapid testing and acquiring those tests for the state.
The federal government has started sending out 15 minute COVID-19 tests to all of the nursing homes in the country.