DHEC Updates Numbers with Delayed Results from Out-of-State Lab; Latest COVID-19 Update (September 22, 2020)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 22, 2020
COLUMBIA, S.C. — On September 21, Augusta University Healthcare in Georgia reported approximately 15,000 negative and positive test results to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Those test results cover a time frame of March 18 through September 17. They are reflected in today’s cumulative numbers and are assigned to the day each result was reported by the lab to the health care provider.
Approximately 13,000 of the results are negative and 2,000 are positive – however these positive test results do not mean they are active cases of COVID-19. While the out-of-state laboratory didn’t report these results to DHEC, laboratories are required to report results to the health care providers who submit the specimens, who then relay the test results to their patients. This delay in the lab reporting results directly to DHEC means DHEC was unaware of the results for all South Carolina residents whose specimens were tested at Augusta University Healthcare and unable to perform contact investigations for each of these positive cases.
“Different states have different reporting requirements and mechanisms in place for how laboratories report test results, which has resulted in delayed test results being reported not just in South Carolina but across the country,” said Dr. Michael Kacka, DHEC physician and Chief Medical Officer. “Many states’ public health agencies are working through these issues. The overwhelming majority of private laboratories are quickly reporting negative and positive test results to DHEC, however, we’ve become aware that some out-of-state labs may not be familiar with South Carolina’s COVID-19 reporting requirements. We are continuing our outreach to these labs that perform testing of specimens from South Carolina residents to ensure that complete information is relayed to us immediately, as required.”
DHEC routinely updates historical data to have it present the most current information available at any given time. As results that are newly reported to us are entered, some counties may see increases in previous days’ numbers. These test results will be reflected online, in the Testing section of the county-level dashboard.
As a reminder, the standard process for how COVID-19 test result notification works is as follows:
- Health care provider collects a patient’s specimen
- Health care provider submits the specimen to a lab
- The lab performs the test
- The lab reports the test result to the health care provider and to DHEC
- The health care provider relays the test result to the patient
- DHEC begins its case investigation of a positive case
The medical professionals who submit their patients’ specimens receive their patients’ test results directly from the laboratory that performed the test. These medical professionals are the first line of communication in relaying test results to their patients.
“The agency has been clear and transparent throughout the response that we regularly update historical data as we learn more information – this is true for any disease surveillance. You always update the past with what you have learned in the present,” Kacka said. “We will continue to make historical updates that are reflected online and will work to provide a more obvious illustration of these bulk historical updates while simultaneously working with private labs to eliminate delayed reporting.”
COVID-19 is an urgently reportable condition, per the South Carolina List of Reportable Conditions. Negative and positive test results are required to be reported to the agency within 24 hours. If DHEC has repeated delays in receiving tests from the same lab/facility, the agency has the authority to explore enforcement actions.
Latest COVID-19 Update (September 22, 2020)
Today, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced 739 new confirmed cases and 30 new probable cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, 30 additional confirmed deaths and 3 new probable deaths.
This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 137,406, probable cases to 3,383, confirmed deaths to 3,067, and 176 probable deaths.
Confirmed and probable cases: please click here.
Confirmed and probable deaths: please click here.
Who Should Get Tested?
If you are out and about in the community, around others, or not able to socially distance or wear a mask, we recommend that you get tested at least once a month.
Routine testing allows public health workers to diagnose those who are asymptomatic and interrupt the ongoing spread of the virus. Learn more about who should get tested here.
656 Testing Opportunities Available Statewide
Testing for COVID-19 is essential because it helps identify people who are infected with the virus, whether they have symptoms or not.
DHEC is working with community partners to set up mobile testing clinics and make testing available in communities across the state. Currently, there are 403 mobile testing events scheduled through October 31 and there are 253 permanent COVID-19 testing facilities across the state. Find a testing clinic or event near you at scdhec.gov/covid19testing.
Testing in South Carolina
As of yesterday, a total of 1,271,177 tests have been conducted in the state. See a detailed breakdown of tests in South Carolina on the Data and Projections webpage. DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory is operating extended hours and is testing specimens seven days a week, and the Public Health Laboratory’s current timeframe for providing results to health care providers is 24-48 hours.
The total number of individual test results reported to DHEC yesterday statewide was 5,160 (not including antibody tests) and the percent positive was 14.3%.
Hospital Bed Occupancy
Hospitals report their information each day to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by way of TeleTracking, and that same reporting is also provided to DHEC. Click here to view data from today's TeleTracking report.
For the latest information related to COVID-19 visit scdhec.gov/COVID-19. Visit scdmh.net for stress, anxiety and mental health resources from the S.C. Department of Mental Health.
*As new information is provided to the department, some changes in cases may occur. Cases are reported based on the person’s county of residence, as it is provided to the department. DHEC’s COVID-19 map will adjust to reflect any reclassified cases.