Gov. McMaster: All SC public schools will be able to test students for COVID-19 after Thanksgiving

DHEC will be providing the schools antigen testing kits that could produce a result in 15 minutes

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — As COVID-19 cases rise across the state, Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) has some new strategies to contain the spread in schools.

In a press conference Thursday, he announced that all public schools in South Carolina will have enough rapid test kits to make sure students don’t come into school testing positive for COVID-19.

Since the start of the school year, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says there have been more than 3,700 COVID-19 cases in South Carolina’s schools.

In order to stop the spread of the virus at the door, Gov. McMaster is filing an executive order mandating that DHEC provide all of the state’s public schools with enough rapid antigen testing kits so tests can be administered in schools.

“By following official COVID-19 procedures and protocols, schools can be operated safely,” Gov. McMaster told reporters Thursday. “There are many in our state now that are following the rules, and are operating perfectly safely. We want all the schools to be open and operating safely.”

These antigen tests could take as little as 15 minutes to generate a result. 

Students and staff would need to sign a consent form in order to get a test done in school. 

“This will allow the students to stay in school if they are negative, and if they don’t have another condition like the flu, and therefore reduce the amount of time that students are missing from schools,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, the interim Public Health Director for DHEC.

Dr. Traxler said these tests would be classified as “probable” positives since the antigen tests are not as definitive as a traditional nasopharyngeal test.

Gov. McMaster says these test kits will be available to school districts starting after Thanksgiving.

Even though DHEC says 40 of 46 counties should be having all of their learning done virtually due to disease activity, the Governor says students need to be back in the classroom, and says more testing will be enough to get them back to five days of face-to-face instruction.

“If there’s a smart way to keep the schools open and get the children in school where they desperately need to be, then that’s what we need to be trying to do,” Gov. McMaster said.

On Thursday, DHEC announced 1,410 new cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina as well as 17 deaths.

As of Thursday, there have been at least 189,251 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina alongside 3,924 deaths since the pandemic started.

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