Key member of White House coronavirus task force shares biggest concerns for Carolinas

Key member of White House coronavirus task force shares biggest concerns for Carolinas

COLUMBIA, S.C. — President Donald Trump’s top coordinator on the White House Coronavirus Task Force was in Columbia Thursday, looking at how the University of South Carolina is handling the pandemic. Dr. Deborah Birx said one type of saliva-based testing, developed at USC, is accurate and provides much faster results, in only 24 hours.

In recent weeks, USC was testing 800 students a day using saliva testing, which is quick and noninvasive. DHEC said that type of testing is being rolled out statewide.

At USC, thousands of students have been on campus for weeks, even though there are hundreds of cases there.

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Dr. Birx is on a 28-state tour, focused on colleges and universities.

USC opened its doors to students in August and has pushed testing to track COVID-19. The university this week reported 654 active cases on campus, all but 14 are students. That’s down from more than 1,400 a week ago. Birx met with leaders from USC, health officials and state government leaders as well.  She credited the state for social distancing and wearing masks to reduce the spread.

“I just want to really applaud everyone in South Carolina for following these really critical common-sense approaches,” she said.

However, as the numbers of positive cases have rapidly declined, the number of tests done has dropped too, from about 8,000 to 10,000 tests a day, to just over 1,000 tests a day this month.

Channel 9 asked Dr. Birx if the virus was on the decline, or if the numbers of cases were down only because fewer people are getting tested.

She didn’t directly answer the question, but said testing must continue, and increase.

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“If you’ve been on vacation, if you’ve been to a hotspot, if you’ve gone to a party in the neighborhood, if you took your mask off and were not socially distant, you really need to be tested,” Birx said.

Birx said most of the spread of the coronavirus is now coming from family gatherings and neighborhood parties. She cautioned people not to think that people they know well couldn’t have the virus.  “you can’t tell,” she warned.

Birx also urged everyone to get a flu shot this year, saying that the things we’re already doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, could drastically reduce flu cases this year as well.