Thursday, June 3, 2021, 3:18 p.m.
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The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) have been working collaboratively to implement a COVID-19 rapid testing option for South Carolina public schools.
This testing is optional and will not be administered to students without obtaining the proper consent.
Beginning in late October and continuing through December 2020, the federal government is providing states with BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Cards. South Carolina is to receive a total of 1,550,000 of these Abbot BinaxNOW cards free of charge. Currently, 220,200 of the state’s tests are allocated for South Carolina public schools, although the number of tests available for schools may increase. DHEC and SCDE aim to provide access to these BinaxNOW tests the week of November 30, 2020, to help school districts prepare for cold and flu season amidst a COVID-19 environment.
The Frequently Asked Questions below provided current information about this new rapid-testing plan and will be regularly updated.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card?
Antigens are proteins that are found on the surface of a virus and are unique to that virus. These rapid antigen tests detect the presence of these antigens from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in individuals suspected of COVID-19 by their healthcare provider within the first seven days of symptom onset. They are a diagnostic test authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that doesn’t require any large laboratory instrumentation to test the samples and instead determines a COVID-19 negative or positive result using a test card containing a very small amount of liquid solution and a nasal swab. Results are able to be provided within about 15 minutes.
How do these rapid tests work?
Trained staff collect a pain-free shallow nose swab (called an “anterior nares” swab) from the individual and the specimen is tested by inserting it into the card.
Who will administer the test?
A school nurse (RN or LPN) or athletic trainer who has been trained to administer and supervise the rapid test will perform the test.
How will it be determined that my child should have this rapid test?
School nurses or athletic trainers will screen students who present with symptoms to determine if the rapid testing is recommended for each child. Parental/guardian consent for this testing must be obtained and documented prior to the test being administered for a student. DHEC will be providing a uniform parental consent form for school districts. If consent is not given for the test to be performed, the student will be sent home to begin isolation and follow-up medical care will be recommended. This testing is also available for school staff.
How accurate are these rapid tests? What does my child’s result mean?
While the BinaxNOW test isn’t as sensitive as PCR tests, they are most accurate when, and are intended for, use for symptomatic individuals.
A positive BinaxNOW result will be treated as a probable case and isolation will be required and contact tracing will begin extremely promptly. In the case of a negative BinaxNOW result, parents and guardians might be encouraged to seek additional attention from a healthcare provider to determine the cause of the symptoms, which may include a PCR test.
BinaxNOW rapid test results are available in approximately 15 minutes, so, for students or staff who develop symptoms on campus during the school day, COVID-19 can be very quickly diagnosed or ruled out. This is ideal especially in the event of a positive case, as isolation and contact tracing and quarantine are able to be performed much sooner, decreasing the risk of further spread. In addition, a negative test result may allow the child to remain in school, decreasing the amount of in-person school time lost.
Why are these rapid tests helpful?
It’s important to note that children who develop symptoms while at home should not be sent to school and that all exclusion criteria should be followed. However, symptoms may present during the school day. Because COVID-19 symptoms are similar to symptoms of other diseases, the BinaxNOW tests can be used to diagnose or potentially rule out COVID-19 as a cause of symptoms and do so quickly. This can be a helpful mitigation tool by allowing faster diagnosis of COVID-positive individuals, thereby allowing for isolation to begin quickly and for identifying potential close contacts to being quarantine quickly.
This testing will help to more quickly identify and diagnose COVID-positive individuals who develop and present symptoms during the school day on campus. This testing will provide an additional tool for schools' mitigation and infection control measures. COVID testing of any kind is one of many mitigation tools and does not replace consistent use of infection control measures like physical distancing, hand hygiene, mask wearing, and others.
How are the tests distributed to schools?
DHEC is helping coordinate distribution of these tests to school districts. Districts will then decide how best to distribute BinaxNOW tests to their schools. If a district runs out of tests before a planned monthly distribution, there is a process for requesting more tests, until supplies are depleted.
How many test kits will each school receive?
Each participating school district will receive tests based on 10 percent of their staff and student population, with the intended purpose of testing symptomatic staff or students who attend in-person and develop symptoms during the school day on campus. Districts will decide how best to distribute BinaxNOW tests to their schools. If a district runs out of tests before a planned monthly distribution, there is a process for requesting more tests, until supplies are depleted.
Can a student attending school virtually receive a test?
Yes. School districts and schools may choose to test symptomatic students and staff in the parking lot if they developed symptoms while at home.
What if I have additional questions?
Please reach out to your child’s school for details about the BinaxNOW testing availability.