I-TEAM: SC begins statewide testing in nursing homes Monday

Published: May. 11, 2020 at 4:09 PM EDT
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Monday, May 11, 2020

News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC at 7

AIKEN, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control is undertaking a huge task beginning Monday. They have begun testing more than 40,000 people in every single nursing home in the state.

The goal is to finish in three weeks.

This undertaking also leaves tens of thousands of families wanting to know immediately if their loved one is safe. Visitation remains shut off and has for nearly two months.

South Carolina has close to 200 long term care facilities. We found nearly 75 of them will be included in phase one of COVID-19 testing that began today.

“Well, DHEC determined the first 27 based on data on the number of cases in the facility and also important was the number of cases in the community,” Randy Lee, president of the South Carolina Health Care Association, said.

The association is one of two state non-profits working with DHEC and LabCorp to test every nursing home resident and worker in the next three weeks.​

“We asked them if a facility wanted to be in the first round of testing could they opt in and they said yes, and we had 47 members say test me now,” Lee said.

We found PruitthHealth of North Augusta was one of those facilities to volunteer.

Other local pruitthealth locations also stepped up in Aiken, Barnwell, Bamberg, and Orangeburg.

“PruittHealth volunteered all of its South Carolina centers to be a part of Phase 1 testing. LabCorp is conducting the tests for the entire state, and will be testing 100 percent of our partners and patients. As part of our commitment to transparency during this pandemic, we will be posting the results as they are available to PruittHealth's Emergency Preparedness webpage. We continue to monitor COVID-19 and its effects on our centers as we follow the latest public health guidance. We ask any employee, patient, or family member with questions to contact our Emergency Operations Center at 855-742-5983,” a statement from PruittHealth said.

We also found Jolly Acres Health Care Center in Orangeburg, John Edward Harter Nursing Home in Allendale, and Ridge Rehab and Health Care Center in Edgefield are also included in phase one.

“They feel like they need a baseline for what is in the buildings before we can effectively control it,” Lee said.

State data shows more than a thousand nursing home patients and workers have already tested positive in the Palmetto State. More than a hundred have died. Lee says the overall infection numbers will increase as the state begins to identify asymptomatic carriers in nursing homes.

“If you test any group in the country -- a baseball team -- they’re going to have positive tests,” Lee said. “That’s just the way it is. There is so many people walking around asymptomatic.”

LabCorp should have the results for phase one testing by Friday. DHEC will analyze that data before beginning phase 2 and 3 testing. Also while DHEC is offering this to every resident, it is optional, so individual residents may decline.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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