SCDHEC to shift COVID-19 testing strategy toward at-home rapid antigen tests

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina’s lead health agency announced Friday it will reduce COVID-19 testing operations across the state.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said with the accuracy, convenience, and availability of rapid at-home tests, and a “significant decrease in demand for drive-through PCR testing,” it will shift its COVID-19 strategy toward at-home rapid antigen testing beginning March 1.

State health officials said rapid antigen testing is now the most effective testing tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help people make informed decisions about whether to isolate.

“This is due to the speed and accuracy of rapid antigen tests, which allow individuals to test anytime, without waiting for a testing center to be open, and immediately isolate if sick and prevent the potential spread that was possible during the PCR waiting process,” said DHEC. “They also make testing more convenient, since people will no longer have to travel to a testing site. With the increased availability of rapid tests, DHEC is pleased to be able to make this change.”

The following changes in DHEC’s COVID-19 testing strategy will occur in stages, beginning March 1:

• March 1-14: Gradual closure of DHEC-managed vendor testing sites in all counties with five or more non-DHEC PCR test providers such as primary care providers, pharmacies, federally qualified health centers, hospitals, mobile providers, etc.

• March 15: Change the frequency and type of data reporting to once per week rather than every weekday to best track where the virus’ impact is most severe

• March 14-April 1: Gradual closure of DHEC-managed vendor testing sites in all counties with 2-4 non-DHEC PCR test providers.

• April 1: Begin closure of DHEC-operated PCR sites except in counties where DHEC is the only PCR-test provider or only other such provider. In those areas, DHEC also will provide mobile rapid antigen testing services.