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South Carolina school districts look to ramp up free testing for students and staff as COVID cases spike

Joe Burke with Fort Mill Schools said they’re offering COVID-19 testing to students and staff at various times throughout the week, and want to do more.

FORT MILL, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control ordered over two million COVID-19 test kits and started distributing the first shipment of 140,000 this week.

School districts across the Palmetto State were eligible to order test kits in bulk for staff and students and are still waiting for those shipments to come in, though some school districts aren’t waiting for those free kits to make sure students and staff can be tested.

RELATED: DHEC begins distributing free at-home COVID test kits across South Carolina

"We’re doing everything we can to make sure we’re helping our folks stay in school and get back to school,” Lancaster County Schools superintendent Jonathan Phipps said.

Phipps said the omicron variant hasn’t made it easy.

“Our numbers have really been off the charts the last couple of weeks with close contacts,” Phipps said. 

It is why Phipps said the district opened three free testing locations for students and staff shortly after the new school year started.

“It's through DHEC at no charge to the school district," Phipps said. "They originally sent us two testers at a site for two hours.” 

Phipps said he couldn’t believe the turnout. Phipps said the sites were seeing around 100 people a day.

“Folks waited in line for three to four hours and some ended up being turned away in some cases, it was just horrible,” Phipps said.

Phipps said Monday DHEC sent more help, and the district decided to move all the testing to the Lancaster High School Multipurpose Building and extend the hours.

“We’re currently offering a five-day-a-week testing site that’s open four hours a day," Phipps said.

Officials say they chose to centralize testing to the Lancaster High School Multipurpose Building because it’s centrally located and allows all testing materials to be shipped to one place for easier access. Officials believe this should speed the process. 

Joe Burke with Fort Mill Schools said they’re also offering COVID-19 testing to students and staff at various times throughout the week, and want to do more.

“We’re also looking at opportunities to expand our testing, we’re looking at possibly doing some weekend pop-up sites we can offer testing through,” Burke said. 

Burke said their goal is to keep COVID-19 spread at a minimum until the latest spike dies down.

“We did see cases go up following the winter break when students were out traveling and around family and that was an expected rise," Burke said. "We’re obviously hoping that the experts that are forecasting this may start to tail off in a couple weeks are correct, and we can start to see that downturn.”

Contact Kendall Morris at kmorris2@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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