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COVID testing demand triples for some providers, affecting appointment availability

Source: Live 5
Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 2:29 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 8:18 PM EDT

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Health experts in the Charleston area say COVID-19 testing has ramped up significantly along with the current surge in positive cases.

Appointments are hard to come by and wait times at walk-in clinics have increased as well.

Health officials at the Medical University of South Carolina and Roper St. Francis Healthcare said Thursday they have seen the demand for COVID testing increase rapidly in recent weeks.

MUSC Chief Quality Officer Danielle Scheurer said the healthcare system went from running 200 to 300 tests per day in July to now running about 1,000 tests per day, and Roper officials reported similar numbers for its urgent cares and other facilities.

Roper’s associate resident of primary care said, for now, the healthcare system is able to run COVID-19 tests completely in-house, but it’s nearing the limit of its capabilities.

Jim Bowron, associate VP of Primary Care, said Roper’s turn around time for test results is still just about 24 hours, but patients may encounter longer wait times to get those tests done if they walk into one of Roper’s urgent care sites, which don’t require an appointment for testing.

Meanwhile, many of the testing sites offered through DHEC’s locator tool showed patients may have to wait a couple of days to get an appointment.

However, health experts said testing is still an important way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and continue to encourage testing for COVID-19 despite delays and inconveniences.

“We know the Delta variant is incredibly contagious and is more transmissible than any of the other variants, so robust testing throughout the entire community allows us to identify the positive patients and isolate them,” Bowron said. “That’s really the only way, aside from vaccinating, that we are going to protect our vulnerable populations.”

Thursday’s COVID case numbers from DHEC show 15.8 percent of the 27,573 tests reported came back positive for the coronavirus.

MUSC is also sequencing more of the tests they are running to see what strain is causing those infections, according to an article written by MUSC’s Helen Adams.

Health officials said this can help scientists who are studying breakthrough infections in vaccinated people understand why the vaccines may be losing efficacy against the virus’s variants.

Current testing at MUSC has uncovered new mutations of the Delta variant.

“One known as AY.4 has become so prevalent that they say it may end up getting a new name,” Adams article stated.

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