CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District now has 5,000 15-minute rapid COVID-19 test kits from the state health department, but district leaders say final preparations need to be made before handing them out to schools as early as next week.
Ellen Nitz, director of Nursing Services, says the district still needs direct guidelines and more personal protective equipment from DHEC before using the rapid tests.
“And then I have to make sure that we have bio-waste management involved. So, there’s a couple more things that we have to get lined up and all of those are in the works before those can be used,” Nitz said. “But until then, we still have the saliva test up and running.”
The current number of rapid tests equals one tenth of the district’s enrollment, but Nitz said they will be in contact with DHEC should they need more.
“If a school goes through them much more quickly, we will then reach out to DHEC again in Columbia and let them know that we are in more need,” Nitz said.
The CCSD says both saliva testing and Rapid Antigen Testing will be available at every school as soon as next week.
Parents will have to sign off on individual consent forms for both the saliva and rapid tests if their child needs it. Students who do not have consent but have symptoms will be taken to their school’s isolation area until they can be tested.
District officials said Rapid Antigen Testing will not replace, but be used in conjunction, with saliva tests that have been made possible thanks to a continued partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina’s Infectious Disease Department.
Rapid Antigen Testing has been made available to schools across the state, as announced by Gov. Henry McMaster last month.
Nitz says one of the districts biggest goals is to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 within the school setting.
“This testing allows for students or staff with symptoms to come into the clinic be tested using their saliva,” said Nitz. “It is sent away and within 12 to 24 hours we will receive the results. At that point, we would let the patient know whether they can return to school or not.”
A statement from CCSD said the saliva tests have a 92% accuracy rate and results are sent in a text to the patient/guardian within 12-24 hours from MUSC.
Nitz explained that once the Rapid Test is administered and a parent’s permission obtained, results can be viewed in less than 15 minutes.
If a person is found to be positive in either case, CCSD says schools will follow district protocols that are in place and begin contact tracing.
The CCSD statement said a positive result will require the person to isolate for 10 days per South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control protocol. It also said each school has identified an isolation area for students to wait for their parent/guardian to pick them up from school.
“The drawback is that have a lower sensitivity rate,” said Nitz. “A positive test is a positive test. A child will automatically be sent home and contact tracing for the household and school immediately begins. But if a child tests negative with this test, we will do further testing using a PCR saliva test.”
Nitz also explained that contact tracing does not start until confirmation of a positive test has been received. She said the staff does however begin to gather information such as seating charts so that they may react quickly and get information out to other families that may have been a close contact.
“We have DHEC trained contact tracers who can turn around cases within a couple of hours,” Nitz said.
CCSD says their biggest plea is that when a student or member of staff is sick, they stay home. For more information contact the Office of Strategy and Communications at 843-937-6303.