Congressman Tom Rice talks coronavirus testing and federal financial help


MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW)- Health experts said social distancing is working, but it may be a while before everything is back open as South Carolina has not reached it’s peak of coronavirus cases.

As of Tuesday, there are 2,417 confirmed coronavirus cases and 16,853 possible cases statewide.

“Testing continues to be a problem. The availability of testing and turnaround time has been certainly an issue. A big part of that was CDC and the FDA at the beginning wanted tight control over it,” said Congressman Tom Rice.

Congressman Rice said now that private enterprise and the govrnment are working together he expects things to improve in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, hospitals are seeing financial damage as elective surgeries have been put on hold. MUSC is temporarily laying off 900 workers across the state.

A Department of Health and Human Services report from a government inspector general cites hospitals asking for financial assitance like increased medicare payments.
Rice said they already require insurance companies to cover the cost of the COVID-19 test.

“We have already increased the amount that Medicare would pay and Medicaid would pay, and maybe there’s more that we need to do to make sure cost of recovery. It really is kind of counterintuitive that at this time, but we need our healthcare workers so badly that they would be laying off people,” said Rice.

Rice is also working to keep our area financially afloat. He wanted at least 100 billion dollars for the tourism industry.

He said the stimulus pacakge did not allocate a specific amount of money for tourism, but the Paycheck Protection Act does allow branch businesses to count each location as a small business. Rice said disruptions in the economy affect tourism first.

“Our area is one the most affected because we are so reliant on tourism. We’re so monolithic in terms of our industrical base so we really have got to diversify. I preach that all the time,” said Congressman Rice.

Rice said once they see the curve going down lawmakers can start working on an exit strategy to get the economy back on its feet.

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