DHEC, UofSC team up on a targeted testing approach to better understand community spread of COVID-19

"SC Strong" will involve 32,500 people randomly getting tested for the virus throughout November

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — If you happen to get a blue envelope in the mail from DHEC in the next week, they want you to get tested for COVID-19.

DHEC and the University of South Carolina are teaming up to randomly test 32,500 people in order to understand the true spread of COVID-19 across the state.

The initiative, known as “SC Strong”, looks to measure community spread of the virus over a one-year period, focusing on which areas are hardest hit by the virus and which groups of people are the most susceptible.

Health experts say over the last few months, only people who have symptoms or have been exposed to the virus make up a significant chunk of those who line up to get tested.

Now with the “SC Strong” initiative, doctors are looking to take a new approach to learn about the true spread of the virus.

“We’ll be able to identify previously undiagnosed cases and learn whether access testing or medical treatment have contributed to why certain individuals don’t get tested as recommended,” said Dr. Virginie Daguise, the Director of DHEC’s Bureau of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention.

Armed with a database of South Carolinians over the age of five, health officials will be sending out letters randomly to 32,500 people across the state to encourage them to get a nasal swab and a finger prick in the next four weeks. The letter will contain instructions of how to sign up to get tested while also outlining their participation in the initiative. 

“After each round of testing, we plan on releasing forecast models to help us determine what the immediate months will look like for our state, the cities hardest hit by the pandemic, and those cities still vulnerable for future outbreaks,” said Dr. Melissa Nolan, an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health.

New groups of people will be picked every three months to get tested. Dr. Nolan said it’s possible that the number of people who get randomly selected could rise depending on how the first batch goes.

While health experts stress the project is voluntary, they want as many people as possible to get tested.

“I like to think of SC Strong as working smarter, not harder,” said Dr. Nolan “This representative study will help us better understand the health equity concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in our state.”

For more information on SC Strong, click here.

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