Hartsville hosts county’s 2nd virus-testing day
by Samantha Lyles
Scores of vehicles lined up near Hartsville’s T.B. Thomas Center early in the morning on May 18 as Darlington County hosted its second mass COVID-19 testing event of the month. Conducted by MUSC with support from the National Guard and the Hartsville Police Department, the event offered free tests to anyone who drove or walked up and registered.
The previous week, a free SC DHEC / CareSouth Carolina testing event in Society Hill performed 464 individual tests, with only six persons testing positive. The Hartsville testing site experienced similar heavy traffic all morning and, according to Quenton Tompkins, MUSC Government Relations Manager, they were prepared for it to persist throughout the day.
“We prepared for 400 to 500 (tests). We just have no way of knowing how many people will actually show up,” said Tompkins.
Nasal swab tests were administered at this event, and while Tompkins said he would characterize the nasal swab as “a little more invasive” than the oral swab tests used in the Society Hill mass testing, most people just winced and powered through the discomfort.
That’s exactly what SC Speaker of the House Jay Lucas did when his turn came to get tested. While Lucas couldn’t say the nasal swab was pleasant, he affirmed that these mass testing events are the best way to move forward and safely emerge from the pandemic shutdown.
“It’s extremely important for the health of our citizens, and for our economy to get going again. We understand that those issues are linked, and we wanted to be one of the first counties in South Carolina have large-scale free testing,” said Lucas.
While Tompkins said he wasn’t actively tracking demographic presence at the testing site, he did notice there were higher numbers of senior citizens and families with young children, and low turnout among young adults.
“We need more people to come out and get tested,” said Rep. Robert Williams, SC House Dist. 62. “It’s important that we flatten the curve, slow the spread of the disease. One of the best ways to do that is getting people tested so they can make better decisions and ensure they’re not spreading the virus.”
Samples were taken to MUSC labs or their partner labs for testing. “Sometimes the rural areas tend to get neglected when it comes to health care issues, and to be on the forefront having mass testing in Darlington County means a lot, and it says so much about MUSC and their people,” Lucas said. “We want to have more of these events all over Darlington County. Everyone who wants to be tested should have access to the test.”
Senator Gerald Malloy said more public testing events are planned now that the state legislature has passed a $25 million continuing resolution to fund such efforts. Malloy said that between SC DHEC and MUSC, testing capacity is now around 1,200 per day. He added that in June, those entities should be able to conduct up to 15,000 COVID-19 antibody tests each day.
For those who have not yet been tested, Tompkins advises that anyone interested should make the effort to get to a free testing event when one is scheduled in your area.
“You don’t know unless you actually come out and get tested. So many people are walking around questioning themselves and don’t have any answers. They want to know if it’s safe for them to go back to work, should they be out and about,” Tompkins said. “We still need to use precautions, but if you really are curious about your status, you need to get tested. That’s the only way to know.”