DHEC experiences COVID-19 testing delays amid surge of cases

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Friday the department is experiencing longer lines for individuals to get tested and longer turnaround times to produce results as a result of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

According to the department, the testing call center and care lines are also seeing an increase in call volumes, leading to longer wait times for voicemails and messages to be returned.

“It’s not just DHEC,” Doctor Jane Kelly, the assistant state epidemiologist said.” Other laboratories, other testing providers are experiencing longer lines for individuals to get tested. The demand has so rapidly increased that it is difficult to maintain the level of service that we have had previously.”

DHEC says test results will now be returned within 7 days, rather than the previous window of 3 days.

Darylene Finkelstein lives in the upstate and says she waited a week for her results.

“I really, honestly got to the point where I thought they were lost and I wasn’t going to hear anything at all,” she said.

Finkelstein has stage four breast cancer and says though she did not show any symptoms after Coronavirus exposure during the holidays, she wanted to take extra precaution because of her weakened immune system.

DHEC has ordered around 500,000 rapid tests in an effort to reduce testing wait and reporting times. There is no word yet where those will be sent or how long it will take to get them there.

In the meantime, Dr. Kelly says people should plan for tests to take longer to get back.

“If you are getting tested because you are planning a gathering, or you are getting tested because you are traveling, you need to take into account that there is going to be a delay in getting the results from those tests.”

DHEC said the Public Health Lab is running at near-max capacity, testing around 2,200-2,500 test per day. However, this is a much smaller number than the number of tests being conducted each day.

As a result, about 97% of all test samples in the state are being processed at other labs, not DHEC, and those labs are dealing with the massive influx in testing demand and that is contributing to delayed turn-around times.

“Part of the reason we have such long lines and such long turnaround times for testing is because we are a state with a low level of vaccination,” Kelly said.

You can find a testing location near you here. You can find a vaccine provider near you here.

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