During peak COVID-19 testing in 2020 and earlier this year, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System (SRHS) operated a thriving drive-through test site at an old Dodge car dealership in downtown Spartanburg. As testing need decreased, it became impracticable to continue operations at the site.
As the Delta variant spawned, however, DHEC identified a need for a static test site in Spartanburg. Capitalizing on an existing relationship, DHEC partnered with SRHS to re-open the former, drive-through, test site.
“Access to services for our communities is at a critical juncture with increasing demand and fewer available resources,” said Dr. Kandi Fredere, the Upstate Region Public Health Director. “It will take creative partnering to sustain services in the coming months.”
The healthcare system provides the location and supportive functions, and DHEC provides the testing team. SRHS was also instrumental in promoting and marketing the site, including an announcement on their weekly Foundation Insider Virtual Event platform.
Less than one week after the need was initially identified, the site was up and running and producing outstanding numbers. In less than seven days of operation, the site completed 3,539 tests.
The site is offers great testing flow and operates Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5 p.m. Visitors do not need an appointment, are not required to have symptoms, and do not need a testing order.
When COVID-19 swept into South Carolina last March, the deadly disease proceeded to hit us with a gut punch. We did the only thing we could: joined hands and hit back with our initial plans to confront an unknown, rapidly evolving situation.
A year later, we’re still standing, together, fighting the worst pandemic our country has seen in over 100 years. With vaccines now available, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
We South Carolinians have been through a lot this past year.
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control officials reported our state’s first two cases on March 6, 2020. Since then, the virus has sickened and killed many of our loved ones, friends and neighbors. None of us were exempt, my family included.
Our schools, businesses and hospitals have been severely tested. Our lives were disrupted: We went from working and worshipping side by side to being forced to not gather at all in many instances. A simple trip for groceries required wearing masks and keeping six feet apart.
It’s been a tremendous strain on our mental health, another challenge we must address, together.
As a member of the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control, I am proud to say that, through it all, South Carolinians have had no greater champions than DHEC’s many skilled public health and environmental control professionals. The pandemic, like hurricanes, has caused broad complications that highlight the advantage and importance of having health and environmental functions working together under one agency.
Everything DHEC has done hasn’t been flawless. There is no perfection to be found when battling a killer, unpredictable pandemic; challenges arise that force you to create solutions as you go. But everything DHEC does comes from a good place and for a good purpose.
It’s all about people first: keeping South Carolinians healthy and alive.
While it’s the state’s lead public health agency, DHEC can’t beat COVID-19 alone. The Governor’s Office, the Legislature, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, South Carolina Emergency Management Division and other state agencies, National Guard, S.C. Hospital Association, hospitals and other providers, frontline workers, volunteers, citizens, and many faith and community partners have been critical to this fight and I thank you. Your selfless commitment to the health and safety of all South Carolinians is deeply appreciated.
DHEC continues to lead disease control activities and keep the public updated.
From collecting and analyzing data to developing statewide testing and contact tracing to drafting a vaccination plan, it’s been a long haul.
The agency’s commitment has been unwavering: 2,883 DHEC staff have worked 1,469,225 hours so far as part of the response. Still, the agency continued to provide critical health and environmental services many in our state depend on.
As of March 1, South Carolina has:
· Conducted more than 6 million tests through DHEC and other partners
· Increased contact tracing staff from 20 statewide before COVID-19 to more than 650
· Answered more than 292,000 calls to the CareLine and vaccination call center
· Given 1,003,558 COVID-19 vaccine shots
· Fully vaccinated 304,724 South Carolinians against COVID-19
· Held more than 33,000 testing events, with over 7,800 more scheduled through March 31
The priority now is vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible while ensuring that all South Carolinians, including those in rural areas, underserved groups, and minorities, are included.
We can’t lower our guards now. Please, stay safe and get tested. When it’s your turn, get vaccinated. Together, with all arms on deck, we can defeat COVID-19. We owe it to ourselves and the many we’ve lost to this dreaded disease.
Seema Shrivastava-Patel is a member of the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control and represents Congressional District 2.
Early in the COVID-19 response, the Midlands Region recognized the need to get messaging out to sometimes hard-to-reach, vulnerable populations such as the elderly, Hispanic, migrant camps, homeless, African-American and Native American. In order to better serve this need, the first Community Health Workers (CHW) came on board in May.
A CHW is someone who has an intimate knowledge of the community and its people as well as a trusted member of that community.
“Not only do I engulf myself into my community, but I also can make a positive impact for people,” Layla Zarif said. “I love that my job lets me spend more time in a county that I am so in love with.”
That relationship allows the CHW to reach those who may not be reached in other ways and to become a liaison between these populations and community resources, including DHEC and other health agencies.
“I love being a CHW because I enjoy helping people, relationship building, community collaboration and helping to connect people with resources and access to care,” Hazel Lowman said.
While the CHW’s were hired for COVID response, they are quickly becoming an integral part of the outreach efforts in the Midlands.
They are promoting testing sites and sharing COVID-19 materials and information with businesses, organizations and individuals. They are also participating in community events and developing relationships at an individual level.
To better help them build the trust that is essential to their jobs, they also share other important information in addition to COVID. They have been involved with food box giveaways, promoting the Census, assisting with WIC and medical appointments and many others.
From their interactions, the region has learned of additional languages that materials should be translated into and how to integrate services into specific populations or neighborhoods, to name a few.
“I became a CHW when I saw that our communities, states, country and entire world was in desperate need of trustworthy education and guidance to take control of health advocacy in the midst of a pandemic,” Katherine Brown said. “Now I can see that even without a pandemic our communities need passionate CHWs who are here for the people to help guide individuals and families to a healthier life.”
Taylor Houser sees herself as part of a team addressing the needs of the communities that she serves.
“Being a Community Health Worker allows me to play my part in bettering the lives of those around me and better myself through continuous education and exposure to new ideas and information,” she said.
The CHW’s in the Midlands have become an important part of the Community Systems Team, collaborating with the core team and the outreach team on a seamless approach to this work. Each part of the team has its own role, but all work together toward an overall goal of reaching the greatest number of people.
CHW’s enter the field for many reasons, but the overarching quality is a strong desire to serve others.
“Simply put, there is more happiness in giving than in receiving and showing compassion to the least of these my brothers as a Good Samaritan provides riches that money cannot buy,” Bruce Wright said.