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COVID-19 testing in S.C. nursing homes to begin next week

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The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will test residents and staff at every nursing home in South Carolina for COVID-19.

A phased testing approach to include approximately 40,000 residents and staff at 194 S.C. nursing homes will begin Monday, according to a new release from DHEC. Support will be provided by LabCorp, along with the South Carolina Health Care Association and Leading Age South Carolina.

The first phase of testing will include approximately 15,000 residents and staff at 74 facilities. Those facilities were identified based on risk, according to DHEC, though the majority volunteered to be tested in phase one.

Data released by DHEC late last month showed a Columbia nursing home had 78 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest number in the state.

“Many of us have family, friends and loved ones in these types of care facilities,” DHEC director Rick Toomey said in the release. “Across the country, COVID-19 has drastically impacted the residents and workers at nursing homes, and we want South Carolinians to know that DHEC is doing everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially for the vulnerable populations who reside at these care facilities.”

DHEC expects the testing to be complete by the end of the month. Facilities have been notified of the testing.

COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities are an indicator of ongoing transmission of virus within a community. DHEC is working closely with those facilities to provide guidance and recommendations for dealing with the coronavirus.

“Asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 from staff to residents and between residents is a concern in nursing homes,” Dr. Joan Duwve, DHEC director of public health, said. “Universal testing in these facilities will allow us to better identify residents with asymptomatic infection in order to cohort infected patients and further reduce the spread of COVID-19 from patients with no signs of illness.”

On May 7, DHEC announced 214 new cases of COVID-19 in S.C. and 11 deaths. That brings the state's total number of confirmed cases to 7,142 with 316 deaths. Twenty-nine of the newly announced cases are in Richland County. 

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