South Carolina to distribute rapid COVID-19 tests in schools

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 5:32 PM EST
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AIKEN, SC. (WRDW/WAGT) - This rapid testing in schools is news to many people.

Aiken County says they haven’t received any guidance from the state Department of Education yet. And when we reached out to them they said: “We didn’t even know the news conference was happening.”

As Aiken County backs off on its five-day a week schedule, COVID-19 testing is coming to school districts across South Carolina.

“Rapid antigen tests that are made by Abbott and have been provided to South Carolina by the federal government,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim director for DHEC said.

Traxler says these tests take about 15-minutes to get results. State health officials say there should be enough tests available at each school, so any symptomatic students or staff can get tested.

“We will be issuing a standing order authorizing the school nurses to be trained in how to collect the specimen and how to perform the tests,” Traxler said.

It’s still a nasal swab, but how accurate are these tests in the first place?

“Most of them are probably in the 85 to 90 percent accurate range, maybe even higher than that. But, one, in particular, was down in the low to mid-70s,” Dr. Rodger MacArthur said.

Dr. MacArthur, professor of medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, says that one in the low 70s was the test used at the White House for some time and also made by Abbott.

“They tend to be very good at ruling in the condition, on the other hand, not so good at ruling out the condition,” he said.

What he means is: if you have COVID-19, the test will tell you pretty clearly. If not, you’ll likely need a normal PCR test to double-check.

“Realize the limitation and realize it’s not a guarantee someone is truly negative or truly positive for that matter,” Dr. MacArthur said.

Aiken County says they hope to receive more details soon, which will likely be next week.

To be tested at school, students must have permission from their parent or guardian. DHEC says they are working with the state Department of Education to see how many testing kits go to each school.

They expect schools to get those kits the week after Thanksgiving.

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