South Carolina scaling back on COVID-19 testing, case reporting

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is scaling back on COVID-19 testing due to the increasing availability of rapid at-home tests, starting March 1.

DHEC said at-home rapid antigen testing is now the most effective testing tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help people decide on whether to isolate.

The accuracy and convenience of the at-home kits have caused a large decrease in demand for drive-through PCR testing, according to DHEC.

The department said the shift could help prevent the potential spread of the virus during the PCR waiting process and avoid travel to testing sites.

DHEC said in a release that South Carolina is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations from the peak of the omicron surge.

As the virus continues to trend toward an endemic situation, PCR screening testing is no longer necessary or recommended in most cases, according to the release.

DHEC said its testing efforts will focus on those who need to be tested because they are symptomatic or who have been exposed as a close contact of someone with the disease.

Since at-home testing is not reportable, DHEC will no longer report daily case counts as of March 15.

The department will continue to report hospitalizations and deaths on a weekly basis.

DHEC has released the following testing strategy in stages.

  • March 1-14: Gradual closure of DHEC-managed vendor testing sites in all counties with five or more non-DHEC PCR test providers
  • March 15: Change the frequency and type of data reporting to once per week
  • March 14-April 1: Gradual closure of DHEC-managed vendor testing sites in all counties with two to four non-DHEC PCR test providers
  • April 1: Begin the closure of DHEC-operated PCR sites, except in counties where DHEC is the only PCR-test provider or only other such provider

DHEC says it plans to announce changes in contact tracing and school guidance next week.

(WATCH BELOW: ‘SC has been the wild, wild west’: DHEC facing criticism over vaccine rollout)