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South Carolina health agency orders nearly half a million rapid tests as COVID cases surge

Sumter County is just one area that may see additional testing sites as more people seek care.

SUMTER, S.C. — Across the Midlands, there's a push to increase COVID-19 testing as a wave of new patients seek care.

In Sumter, positive cases have nearly doubled at Tandem Health alone.

"In the last week we’ve seen just an explosion of patients coming in seeking to get tested," Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Justice said. "30 percent of the people that are coming in to get tested actually do have coronavirus.”

According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), there are six different testing sites available in Sumter County.

Like in much of the state, they're now looking to add more.

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"This is the worst I think as far as the infections with coronavirus that we’ve seen during the course of the whole pandemic," Dr. Justice said, "and that has really played out both here in Sumter and nationwide.”

Other communities are also feeling the effects.

Both Greenville and Richland Counties reported more than 1,500 cases on Friday.

"I think, if you have symptoms, you should definitely get tested," Dr. Justice said, "and then, if you have been exposed, I think you should consider getting tested, especially if you’ve had a close contact.”

To help, DHEC said it's ordered nearly half a million rapid antigen tests to distribute to communities in the coming days and weeks with the hope of getting results back sooner and reducing wait times at testing sites, some of which have seen waits upwards of an hour.

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"Due to the current COVID surge that's being fueled by delta and omicron, DHEC and other testing providers and laboratories are experiencing longer lines for individuals to get tested and longer turnaround times to produce results," the agency said in a statement. "We also have signs and staff at some of the most popular testing locations in the state directing people to nearby testing locations without such long lines.... We executed plans that were in place for experiencing an increase in testing over the holidays, just like we had seen last year. So, an influx was anticipated and prepared for, but the timing of omicron occurring over the holidays further escalated testing demand."

They continue to urge vaccinations as a means to slow the spread.