COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) began distributing some of its 140,000 free at-home COVID-19 test kits to South Carolina residents at health departments across the state on Monday.
It's just a fraction of the 2 million tests DHEC ordered that are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
According to DHEC, the number of kits were distributed evenly between all four regions in South Carolina. From there, the total amount of tests for public health departments was divided equally among the regions, and they independently determined further distribution based on need and expected demand at the local level.
The Richland County Health Department had short lines of people seeking a test kit throughout the day. Columbia resident Pat Saad described the process of getting her test as quick and easy.
“All you had to do was come in, and I signed a little piece of paper saying how old I was, and they gave me a kit," said Saad.
Each kit comes with two tests and is handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.
Jonny Roberts says he got his kit to protect himself and others.
“Most people should do it to be safe. In other words, you're saving yourself plus the other person that may not have it or don’t want it.”
Home test results don't have to be reported to DHEC. However, DHEC medical consultant Dr. Jonathan Knoche says the tests help users make choices that help limit the spread of the virus.
"The ability to know which illnesses people have and identify cases of omicron and to appropriately isolate people and quarantine close contacts," said Knoche, "That's a very basic public health practice of how you break down transmission and transmission rates.”
The other half of at-home tests will go to first responders, school districts, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and state agencies. DHEC said specific details of the distribution plan for schools are still in development.
"Schools have been surveyed to determine their needs, and they will be receiving either at-home (over-the-counter) or point-of-care rapid antigen tests, or both, depending on their capability to perform the point-of-care tests and other factors such as community access to testing," said DHEC in a statement. "DHEC is committed to a distribution plan that prioritizes equity."
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, DHEC advises you to avoid going inside of the health department. Instead, notify health department staff and they will bring the test kit out to you.
It's unclear when the next shipment of tests will arrive, but DHEC said they will alert the public when they are available.
According to DHEC, Lexington County received 576 kits, Kershaw County received 288 kits, and Orangeburg County got 240 kits.
To see if your local health department has at-home test kits available, visit DHEC's testing locator.
You can also call your health department before you arrive.
If you want free at-home COVID-19 test kits shipped right to your door, you can order them directly from the federal government.