S.C. lawmakers want 500,000 South Carolinians tested per month

Members of the Reopen SC Committee say this number is necessary for surveillance and mitigation

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — Lawmakers listened to testimony from public health experts about how the state is continuing to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some legislators want to see the state test 500,000 people per month, which would be 10% of the state’s population.

In the last five months, more than 800,000 South Carolinians have been tested for COVID-19. The state is now ranked 33rd in the nation in testing per capita, a jump from 46th back in the spring.

However, some members of the Senate Reopen SC Committee feel the state can do even better.

“I am not satisfied with South Carolina’s response,” said Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw Co.), “I’m very tired about hearing about not having enough reagents, because every state is dealing with that, so what I want to know is what other states are doing, who are doing better than us, doing better than us, so we can do it.”

The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced only 3,627 samples were tested yesterday, continuing a steady decrease in the number of test results reported a day. Some days, South Carolina reported more than 10,000 test results per day.

One way the Reopen SC Committee recommends ramping up effort is by testing about 16,600 South Carolinians a day, or 500,000 per month.

DHEC’s Acting Director Marshall Taylor says reaching the ten percent threshold is something that will require a lot of effort and collaboration.

“We’re going to be looking at using private entities to help up with testing, from a contract perspective. It’s going to take more than the current partners we have to expand this effort,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he thinks the 10-percent threshold can be reached by the end of this year, but lawmakers want a larger volume of people tested immediately.

“Setting 10 percent, we think, is a reasonable goal based on the test money received. It’s also what the consensus medical science says the level of testing must be if you’re going to have an effective strategy of mitigation and suppression,” said Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort Co.). 

Some lawmakers say the testing threshold needs to be increased dramatically, and if DHEC has issues making it happen, then they need to address those issues immediately.

“DHEC: have a hard discussion with us. Tell us you’re handcuffed, tell us you can’t do it,” said Sen. Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington Co.) “Listen, some feelings are going to be hurt, but I’d rather have feelings hurt than people dying.”

As of Wednesday, there have been 102,143 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina with at least 2,057 deaths stemming from the virus.

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