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‘They are hard to come by:’ DHEC reports COVID testing kit shortage, test result delays

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 11:00 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 11:31 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - DHEC reported a daily record-high number of COVID-19 cases Friday at nearly 19,500 cases statewide. With the increase in cases comes an increase in testing, according to DHEC, as more people are feeling symptoms.

DHEC has reported a shortage in the number of available at-home COVID-19 testing kits due to the surge.

“They are hard to come by for us to purchase for the state,” said DHEC Director of Public Health Dr. Brannon Traxler.

DHEC reported Friday that more than 65,000 COVID-19 tests had been taken across the state in one day.

Along with the surge in testing comes delays in test results.

“It’s a little bit of a cycle. We are seeing more testing because we’re having more people with symptoms because more people are infected because this spreads so easily. And certainly, as more people get tested, we’re going to detect more positive cases,” said Traxler. “But, I think that the driver of all this is that this variant is so contagious. And therefore, we are just seeing so many more cases so much more spread.”

Dr. Traxler says results from saliva or nasal swab PCR test should come back within one to three days, but many people are reporting delays upwards of one week.

Dr. Traxler says labs that service the state’s COVID-19 tests are backed up due to volume and internal issues in the labs.

“We’ve been working with them they have been working diligently to get caught back up as well as being able to handle these unprecedented numbers of people continuing to come and get tested,” said Traxler.

If you haven’t received your lab results back within three days, DHEC recommends getting retested to make sure results are timely.

But, if you can’t find a testing appointment or an at-home test kit and you’re feeling symptoms, Dr. Traxler points to CDC isolation guidelines.

“If you can’t get tested but you have symptoms, you need to stay home and stay away from others until you meet the release from isolation criteria,” said Traxler. “So, stay home away from other people for at least five days after your symptoms began. As long as you’re not having fever for 24 hours and not taking any medicine to reduce your fever and your other symptoms are significantly improving, then you can return back out into society.”

DHEC moved its testing site from its headquarters on Bull Street in Columbia to Columbia Place Mall to better facilitate the influx of people needing a PCR test. The site also includes a separate lane that provides at-home saliva test kits that are prepaid to be mailed to the lab.

If you find tests, Dr. Traxler advises against hoarding them.

“Please just purchase what you need,” she said. “Don’t buy a bunch to have on hand. We do see increases becoming available in the next few weeks. Even just for us to be able to purchase and so there will be more tests coming.”

DHEC recommends both rapid testing and PCR testing, depending on your symptoms. Dr. Traxler says PCR testing from a saliva sample or nasal swab gives the same results.

“All the same test whether it is from the specimen from your nose or saliva specimen, so once it goes through the actual PCR test process, it’s is the exact same. That is the gold standard. It is the most accurate test for COVID-19 for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The rapid test’s accuracy is very good, but it is not as good as the PCR. However, when we need to have results and have results quickly for so many people, it really is the best way to do that testing. It’s just recognizing we may have to accept a few false results.”

Dr. Traxler says rapid tests are the most accurate when a person is showing symptoms.

“The concern [with rapid testing] would be any potential false negatives. So, we do advise people if they have symptoms and they test negative on a rapid, do the other one. This is why they come two to a box. Wait 24 hours and take the other one. Or, go get a PCR 24 hours later. But for the rest, we generally can trust the result.”

To find a testing location near you, visit COVID-19 Testing Locations | SCDHEC

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