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Details still being worked out for COVID-19 school testing plan

The State Department of Education says they weren't told about the governor’s plan in advance, and at this point, have not received formal guidance.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, along with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), announced on Thursday they will soon be providing school districts with COVID-19 testing kits, but how exactly the devices will be given out is still being determined.

McMaster said he will be issuing an executive order directing DHEC to provide every school district with COVID-19 testing kits starting the week after Thanksgiving.

RELATED: All South Carolina schools to get rapid COVID test kits, governor orders

The tests are the BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests, which can provide results in 15 minutes. 

Dr. Brannon Traxler, the state's public health director, said the focus of these tests will be aimed at students and staff with symptoms.

"This is really during the cold and flu season to allow us to rule out COVID-19 more easily in these children, especially ones where getting to normal testing sites might be more of a challenge," Traxler said. "And this will allow the students to stay in school if they are negative, and of course don't have another condition like the flu, and therefore reduce the amount of time that students are missing from school."

According to the State Department of Education, they were not told about the governor’s plan in advance, and at this point, have not received any formal guidance from DHEC or the governor's office.

Officials with both DHEC and the governor's office told News 19 there are still more details that need to be worked out.

As far as administering the tests, Traxler said school nurses will get needed training.

"This is just inside the nose, the real shallow nasal swab. They will be trained in that and how to perform the test on BinaxNOW cards and then will, of course, be reporting the results to DHEC for both positives and negatives," Traxler said. "And we will do appropriate contact tracing and case investigation as needed for any positive results."

However, the State Department of Education notes 79 schools are without a nurse and 33 schools only have a part-time nurse.

"My understanding is that all the schools have access to a nurse or to another medical professional that can be adequately trained like an athletic trainer and the like," Traxler said.

The goal is to have these tests available the week after Thanksgiving.

Officials with both DHEC and the governor's office said more details on testing in schools will be available next week.