COLUMBIA, S.C. — On Wednesday, members of the state's testing and tracing subcommittee met with state health officials to discuss challenges they may be facing in testing for the coronavirus.
Senator Tom Davis, a republican representing Beaufort, chairs the committee which is tasked with presenting the findings to the state legislature when they return in September.
"We're going to be asked, and rightly so, what can we do in South Carolina to increase our testing, to accelerate the turn-around times, to improve our contact tracing to where we have achieved mitigation and suppression levels, and we're not there yet quite frankly," Davis said.
Leaders with the State Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the State Hospital Association painted a clearer picture of the challenges South Carolina medical staff are facing in conducting the tests, including a strain on staffing, protective gear and medical supplies.
"Medical technicians were in short supply prior to COVID-19 and the need for them has only grown since COVID-19," Dr. Patrick Cawley, CEO of MUSC Health, said. "So, that's an issue."
While many of the major systems have been able to meet the demand, a strain on resources presents a concern for the fall when cases could spike.
"You're hearing it's taking seven to 10 days to get a result back," Cawley said. "We'll get over this... but the issue is going to come back at us probably in the fall."
According to DHEC, the state is testing about five percent of the population currently. Sen. Davis said he'd like to see that number increase to 10 percent or more to get better control of the spread.
Leaders with the state's National Guard and Emergency Management Division also shared how they're working to coordinate resources to assist with the response effort.
The group plans to meet again Aug. 4 to discuss in more detail how to improve the test result return times and any issues concerning state labs.