COLUMBIA, S.C. — Last school year, many districts offered rapid coronavirus testing in schools but this year most will not.
In an effort to reopen schools last fall, Governor Henry McMaster issued an executive order allowing DHEC to provide rapid testing kits to schools. Students and staff showing COVID-19 symptoms in school could be tested by a nurse and find out in 15 minutes if they were infected.
"School testing is a very important intervention that could help us a lot,” Dr. Linda Bill, South Carolina's Epidemiologist said in a media call Wednesday.
However this school year, many Midlands districts will not offer testing in schools.
News19 investigated COVID-19 plans in every Midlands District. Only one will be offering on-site rapid COVID-19 testing: Lexington School District Two.
Lexington Two officials said rapid tests will be for students only during school hours. Nurses can administer the tests if a student is symptomatic, once they have the okay from a legal guardian.
All other Midlands districts will not provide rapid testing in schools.
“Testing in schools involves a lot of logistical concerns," said Dr. Bell. "We do have programs at DHEC that are working with school districts that are interested in doing that. And we are providing them information on where they can obtain tests if they want to perform those.”
DHEC told News19 that 30 districts and individual schools across the state have indicated that they want to provide testing this year.
Bell noted that with masks not required in schools, testing could help mitigate spread of the virus.
"We’re doing all that we can to put schools in the best position to adopt testing whenever possible because it’s very important to identify cases as early as possible,” said Bell.
However, with testing widely available in communities, districts like Kershaw County said they chose not to offer it this year.
Kershaw County School District's Superintendent, Dr. Shane Robbins said they " offered rapid testing last year in regional locations and we did not get a lot of participation because we had so many testing sites in our community.”
When a student or staff member may be sick, Robbins said they isolate them and refer them to other testing sites in the area, but testing is optional.
"You have to quarantine for X amount of days, if you come back with a negative test, you can come to school a little bit sooner so that’s sometimes the motivation for families,” Robbins explained.
The Superintendent added that they’re in conversations now to plan testing and vaccination clinics in their community later this year.
Richland School District Two has a drive-thru testing site at their Institute of Innovation Monday - Saturday.