The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is strongly encouraging schools across the state to utilize the Test to Stay (TTS) program to better ensure that healthy students can continue in-person learning.
This program allows rapid tests to be performed on K-12 students who have been exposed to a COVID-19 infected person in the hope that more of them can remain in class. Rather than immediately moving close contacts to quarantine, TTS allows those students to stay in the classroom if they test negative between day 5-7 and are not experiencing symptoms. A second test, given 24 hours after the first test is encouraged if testing is available. To assist in this effort, DHEC is providing tests to schools that implement TTS.
DHEC has ordered more than 1,600,000 rapid at-home tests, and 300,000 will be delivered to schools by end of week. The remaining tests will be delivered to schools as soon as they arrive. In addition, DHEC has 200,000 BinaxNOW test cards that can be distributed to schools now, upon request, so that school staff can administer the tests on students at school.
“We are aware that several school districts have concerns about updates to our COVID-19 school guidance and our School and Childcare Exclusion List. We know that their goal is to keep more students in schools,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director. “DHEC shares in that goal and is ensuring that schools and parents have access to rapid tests so school systems can fully implement TTS, which allows most students to remain in school. This is the most effective way to maximize learning without sacrificing our students and teachers’ well-being.”
Under Test to Stay, schools are asked to accept rapid at-home test results from parents. In addition, schools are asked to champion COVID-19 prevention methods among their students and teachers. These include encouraging vaccinations, masking indoors, handwashing, physically distancing, and staying home when sick. These methods, plus the additional guidance on testing and quarantining, will help keep children in school instead of relying on virtual learning.
“This pandemic has taken its toll on all of us, especially our dedicated teachers, school nurses and other staff, and parents who are doing their best to keep students engaged in learning,” Simmer added. “We are doing our part as a public health agency by studying the science and offering recommendations that will safely serve the most people. Test to Stay accomplishes that goal.”
It is also important for K-12 schools to follow DHEC’s school guidance correctly. Teachers who are asymptomatic are only allowed to remain in the classroom if the school is in a crisis staffing situation and would otherwise have to close due to insufficient staffing, and if they get tested on day 5.
DHEC strongly encourages COVID-19 testing based on the latest standards, vaccinations for ages 5 and up, booster shots for those who are eligible, and the use of masks to protect ourselves and each other from virus spread. Find a vaccination site near you on our vaccine locator or by calling our Care Line at 1-855-472-3432.
Additional testing resources
Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests from www.covidtests.gov. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.
People can also pick up one free test kit (containing two tests) from DHEC Public Health Departments. Search for “DHEC Events” and open locations with “Rapid Antigen Tests Available” in the site title at scdhec.gov/covid19testing.