Sep 10, 2020
SC Governor Henry McMaster COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript September 10
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster held a coronavirus press conference on September 10. He discussed Phase 2 of the rollout of the CARES Act funds, as well as school reopening concerns. Read the full press conference transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Has finished its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Let’s hold strong to our faith, continue to love one another, and we will persevere together. Let us pray if you are praying person, pray with me please. Almighty God, we come before you today and we give you thanks for another day of life. I ask your blessing upon our country and our state. I pray that you will provide wisdom to our state officials and leaders, be with our medical professionals, teachers, first responders, and all of our state agencies who are leading and serving during this difficult time. Lord, I pray for the people of South Carolina, that we would love one another and pursue unity and peace. Lord, lead us, guide us, and protect us from all evil. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
Henry McMaster: (00:47)
Amen. Thank you Chaplain. We have two things to talk about today and we appreciate you coming. One is about money and the other is about a vaccine. You know all of those things have been in the news. As you are aware the accelerateSC taskforce has played a vital role in the safe and swift revitalization of our state’s economy and we are confident that we are doing better than a lot of our other states are doing because we’ve made good decisions, collaborative decisions. The official recommendations and guidelines produced through accelerateSC and the public effort have allowed our state to gradually and responsibly remove the limited and targeted measures enacted to combat the COVID-19 virus. One important charge given to accelerateSC, excuse me, was the conduct of a thorough and complete review of the Federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, that’s the CARES Act. They were also tasked with providing expenditure recommendations to my office for the $1.9 billion coronavirus relief fund that included the CARES Act for the reimbursement of South Carolina COVID-19 related expenses.
Henry McMaster: (02:08)
On June the 10th, I provided the General Assembly with recommendations based on those from accelerateSC. For the first phase of expenditures of CARES Act funds, those recommendations included replenishing our state’s unemployment trust fund, providing resources to DHEC and the Medical University of South Carolina for statewide testing and contact tracing. Also the creation of a statewide stockpile of PPE for the future and funds to reimburse schools, colleges, and government agencies for COVID-related expenses.
Henry McMaster: (02:55)
Today, I have provided recommendations, you may have a copy of it there, for the second phase of expenditures of the coronavirus relief funds, CRF, from the Federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, the CARES Act. That is these are the recommendations for the second phase. First the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. In order to prevent our state’s small businesses from paying higher taxes to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund, I have recommended that an additional $450 million be authorized and made available to the Department of Employment and Workforce for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. As you know in the first phase, I asked for and the legislature provided $500 million into that fund. Second for small businesses, I have proposed that $30 million be made available in the form of one-time $5,000.00 grants to small businesses, that is to small businesses that did not receive federal funds under the Paycheck Protection Program loans from the Small Business Administration. A lot of money went out under that program, but a lot of our small businesses did not receive that money. That would be enough money, that $30 million, to provide 6,000 small businesses in our state with a $5,000.00 grant which we are confident would be very much welcome by all.
Henry McMaster: (04:37)
Also for certain non-profits, I have proposed a similar grant for certain non-profit organizations that were not eligible to receive the PPP loans because of their unique tax status. For example, a non-profit like Riverbanks Zoo here in Columbia was not eligible and while they were closed to the public they still had to pay their employees, keep the place clean, take care of the animals. My proposal would provide $15 million to provide non-profits like the Riverbanks Zoo with the relief they would have received under the PPP loan. As for schools, for many South Carolina families, public schools provide the opportunity for parents to work, provide housing, meals and economic security for their children. Literally their lives revolve around those schools. When the children are in schools, that allows the parents to do many other things and of course we know how important it is for the children to be in school for a variety of reasons. Many working parents simply cannot stay home with the children every day but they have to go to work, they have to feed the families, provide shelter and security for their future, and medical care and everything else. If a parent wants to send their children back to school or if they want to keep their child at home, they should have their choice. They shouldn’t have to choose between their child or their job.
Henry McMaster: (06:11)
19 school districts began this school year with their classrooms open five days a week. However, a large number of school districts chose not to provide parents with that option. Parents are not happy. I am not happy. I don’t know anybody who is happy about this. My office among others has been flooded with calls from parents and concerned citizens as well as emails and letters and there’s a sense of frustration all across the state about this. If state law allowed me as governor to require school districts to provide in-person instruction, five days a week, as an option, I would have issued the executive order months ago. I have no authority to require the school districts to provide face to face education to the children, no authority. What I can do however is to help those schools which have opened for face to face education with the cost of doing that. The costs of in-person reopening are significant so I have recommended to the General Assembly that up to $50 million be authorized to reimburse public school districts and charter school [inaudible 00:07:44] for COVID-19 related costs incurred by those schools reopening and providing five day in-person classroom instruction to the students.
Henry McMaster: (07:59)
South Carolina’s economy is returning to normal because people have returned to their workplace, following precautions designed to keep them healthy and working. I believe that schools are no different. I believe that by following official COVID-19 procedures and protocols, schools too can be reopened safely and sensibly the same way businesses, manufacturers, restaurants, merchants and state government have done and are still doing successfully today and we announced some time ago and made it doubly clear to all the school districts, if they need the protective equipment, we will provide it at no cost. Many have asked, some have not, but we do not want the lack of the protective equipment, the personal protective equipment to be a reason for not allowing those children, those parents to send their children to schools.
Henry McMaster: (08:58)
Finally I have proposed an additional $93 million to be directed to DHEC and MUSC for continued and expanded COVID-19 testing as a prevention as well providing reimbursement to state agencies, counties, municipalities, first responders, law enforcement agencies, public institutions of higher education, and technical colleges for COVID-19 expansions. As you know the General Assembly will meet next week to discuss CARES Act funding among other issues. It is my hope that just like they did in June, they will adopt these recommendations and the state can put these resources to work to provide the needed funding and relief right away. The second point is about the vaccine. I’d like to mention that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the CDC, as you know are rapidly making preparations to implement large-scale distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the fall of 2020. The vaccine distribution program is expected to be a public health effort of significant scale, potentially involving hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to be distributed across the United States. In South Carolina, the Department of Health and Environmental Control will coordinate the distribution of this vaccine when it reaches South Carolina.
Henry McMaster: (10:34)
Similar to the hospital beds surge plan that was formulated back in the spring, the vaccine plan will be a team South Carolina effort and will involve the participation of numerous state and local agencies, healthcare providers, the National Guard, the Emergency Management Division, and everyone in between. I have asked DHEC to provide a brief overview of their planning and preparation for distributing this vaccine when it –
Governor McMaster: (11:03)
… preparation for distributing this vaccine when it arrives. And we know that the initial shipments will begin and then others will follow. It will take time, but I’ve asked them to answer your questions about the vaccine and provide an update also on the nursing homes and assisted living facility visitation plans. And Director Marshall Taylor, if you please.
Marshall Taylor: (11:33)
Thank you, Governor.
Governor McMaster: (11:36)
Marshall Taylor: (11:36)
Good afternoon. Before I begin, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our public health professionals, countless partners, essential workers, and many others who continue to work around the clock to protect the health and safety of our residents across South Carolina. It’s because of their tireless, commitment and dedication that South Carolina can be hopeful that we will bring this virus under control. I’d also like to thank Governor McMaster and the legislature, as well as their staffs for their leadership and their support of our important efforts to fight this disease.
Marshall Taylor: (12:12)
So, first, real quick, I wanted to give an update on nursing home visitation plans. We have received today 46 of these plans from facilities across the state. And we have approved 24 of these plans. We have five that we’re waiting for additional information from nursing homes on. We are working very closely with the Nursing Home Association and these facilities across the state to get their plans submitted to us and get them back out to the facilities so that visitation can start across South Carolina. It’s very important that this happens soon, quickly so that people can see their relatives and visitations can begin in the facilities that qualify for visitations to occur. With regard to vaccines, as many of you are aware, there has been increasing national attention on the development of three different vaccines aimed at helping to end the spread of COVID-19. DHEC and our partners are working closely to develop a plan for distributing a vaccine within our state once one becomes available. The plan will be built on guidance and recommendations from CDC and the US Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies. As a reminder, there is no confirmed date when a vaccine will be available. However, as we learn more, our team will provide the public information as that information becomes available. In lieu of a vaccine, we must continue in our united fight against this deadly disease by remaining vigilant about taking recommended precautious, including practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and know your status by getting tested. I’ll now turn the floor over to Steven White, who is our director of immunizations to provide more information about our planning efforts.
Steven White: (14:20)
Thank you, Director Taylor. Good afternoon. So mostly as Director Taylor has mentioned and the Governor has mentioned, have heard a lot about COVID vaccinations on the news and over social media over the last few weeks. Each day with each person who enrolls in a phase three COVID-19 vaccine trial, including right here in South Carolina, the medical world is learning more and more about three promising vaccines being tested here in the US. I know we are all hopeful that one of these vaccines will help put an end to this unrelenting virus that spreads without symptoms, literally stealing the breath from our loved ones and neighbors, colleagues, and friends, not just in South Carolina, but also across the country and across the world.
Steven White: (15:13)
Although we don’t know exactly when the vaccine will be made available in the United States, I want to assure you that DHEC is forging partnerships and following federal guidelines for developing a plan for distributing the vaccine within our state, when it becomes available. This plan, will we built on the guidance and recommendations from the CDC, the US Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division, the South Carolina Hospital Association, the National Guard, South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, Department of Labor and other public and private sector partners are working closely with DHEC to develop South Carolina’s COVID 19 vaccination plan.
Steven White: (16:02)
The overarching goal of this vaccination plan will be the equitable distribution of the vaccine across the state. We, just like you, have heard that an improved vaccine could be made available as early as this fall, and we will be ready. There are things that I would like for you all to know. One, we have been assured by key scientific stakeholders, like the National Institutes of Health, that no vaccine will be released until it’s undergone the rigorous scientific and clinical testing that all vaccines in development are held to. Second, when the vaccines first become available in South Carolina, the numbers of doses will be limited. These limited doses will be allocated according to federal guidance to those at highest risk for contracting the virus and those at the highest risk of death. These groups include one, our frontline medical personnel, including those individuals who provide care for our senior populations in nursing homes. Two, residents in nursing homes and three critical infrastructure employees.
Steven White: (17:19)
As vaccination production ramps up and additional vaccines complete the approval process, we are being told that there will be sufficient doses available nationwide, that we will be able to open up vaccinations to the general public. The vaccination is a two dose series, which means individuals will need two doses of COVID-19 vaccine in order to provide protection against COVID-19 disease. Timing between the first and the second dose is currently unknown, however assumptions are, we could be looking at 21 to 28 days or even longer. Individuals that receive the first dose will need to receive the same brand of vaccine for the second dose.
Steven White: (18:08)
Our current COVID vaccination planning process and timeline will continue to evolve as more information becomes available to us from the federal government. And as we learn more, we will continue to keep South Carolinians updated on the status and availability of COVID-19 vaccines and our plan to make it available to the far reaches of the state as soon as the supply allows. Remember the first doses of the vaccine will be available for those at highest risk for developing severe complications and death from COVID-19 as well as the medical professionals and essential workers who are routinely exposed to the virus every day. There are many months to go before the vaccine will be available in mass quantities. Months that will be especially difficult as families plan for holiday gatherings while continuing to protect those most vulnerable.
Steven White: (19:03)
During these challenging times, as we wait for the vaccine, there are things we can do to make sure that we get to the finish line together. One, we encourage everyone to please continue to wear your masks when you’re around others, even while outdoors. Please maintain at least six feet of distance from others. Please avoid group settings, especially in indoor spaces and make sure you wear a mask and socially distance if you must be in a group setting, even if outdoors. If you don’t feel well or have symptoms of illness, including mild symptoms, like a sore throat, a cough, or headache, please stay home. And lastly, please get your flu shot.
Steven White: (19:50)
Finally, I’d like to remind everyone that currently more testing opportunities rather are available in South Carolina, more than ever before. We have more than 540 permanent and mobile testing locations. And the turnaround time for the results is increasing is becoming faster and faster as time goes on. We encourage anyone who thinks they should get tested to get tested and anyone who is regularly out and about in their community and in close proximity to others because of work or other reasons to get tested routinely, at least once a month or more. Please take advantage of the testing opportunities that DHEC and our central partners have made available because it’s never been easier or more accessible and testing remains a critical part of this fight against the vaccines. Thank you.
Marshall Taylor: (20:41)
Are there any questions? Yes. Ma’am
Speaker 2: (20:51)
Today we found out via the Twitter account of the Ohio governor, that Dr. Duwve is going to be leaving DHEC. When were you all aware? And is there a reason that she is leaving DHEC?
Marshall Taylor: (21:05)
Yeah. So we learned at that this afternoon as well. My understanding is that she has family in Ohio and she’s going to be closer to her family. And actually this is a promotion for Dr. Duwve. And so we’re very happy for her. We will miss her. She has been an asset to DHEC, but understand her decision.
Speaker 2: (21:26)
Did you also learn via Twitter?
Marshall Taylor: (21:27)
No, no. I learned from Dr. Duwve.
Speaker 2: (21:28)
When it her last day?
Marshall Taylor: (21:30)
She’s going to be here for a few more weeks. So there’s going to be a transition period. It’ll be a smooth transition.
Speaker 2: (21:38)
Who will be her after she leaves?
Marshall Taylor: (21:40)
So that’ll be determined. That’s still to be determined.
Speaker 2: (21:44)
On the issue of the vaccine, once it does become available. Well, number one, we know that MUFC has been testing one of those vaccines. Have they given any kind of indication on when that vaccine may be available?
Marshall Taylor: (22:00)
Not that I know of, but Steven?
Steven White: (22:01)
I’m not aware at this moment in time.
Speaker 2: (22:03)
Also on the issue of-
Stephen White: (22:03)
I’m not aware at this moment in time.
Speaker 3: (22:03)
Also, on the issue of vaccines, you have two pots of people. You have some on one side who feel like we’ve been rushing the vaccine and that it may not be completely ready by the time it is ready. Then you have another sector of people who are against vaccines in general. Are you concerned about both of those numbers being combined and heightening the numbers of those not getting it?
Stephen White: (22:26)
Sure. Sure. I’ll try my best to address that as best as I can in what ability I do have. Messaging is very critical for who can get the vaccine and when it’s available. And to your point about safety of vaccines, what we have heard thus far from our CDC counterparts and others on a national scale is that the vaccine will be safe and efficient before they push it out. As far as DHEC is concerned, we don’t make those decisions.
Speaker 4: (22:58)
Today at USC, Dr. Birch said that there would be a surge testing team coming to South Carolina. Can someone explain what’s going on there?
Director Taylor: (23:09)
Yeah. So surge testing has been done across the country by our federal partners, and they’ve chosen Columbia to come and do surge testing, which is basically they are here for 12 to 14 days and they provide all the testing supplies up to 5,000 tests per day. And so it’s a great resource, additional testing resource for the Columbia area. And those sites are still being determined. That testing should start I believe next week, but they’ll be here for several days. DHEC and the University of South Carolina is going to help provide the resources, the logistical resources, for those teams. But they do bring in all the testing supplies, they do all the analytical lab work on those tests. And so it’s a great resource and we’re really appreciative of them bringing that to South Carolina.
Speaker 4: (24:07)
So it will only be in Columbia or around the state?
Director Taylor: (24:09)
The Columbia area. It’s just going to be in the Columbia area. And at this point, I believe they’re planning for two sites in the Columbia area to be announced.
Speaker 5: (24:16)
Governor McMaster. A third grade teacher in Richland County School District Two has died from coronavirus. Have you been in contact with State Superintendent Molly Spearman in terms of an action plan in case there are more deaths, God forbid?
Governor McMaster: (24:30)
The school districts, each one has their own action plans. And, of course, we’re very sorry about that. There was a question over there.
Speaker 6: (24:39)
Yeah, Governor, given the death of this 28 year old teacher, are you worried? You asked schools open back five days a week. Are you worried if more schools open up, we could see more deaths?
Governor McMaster: (24:47)
Ma’am, the virus is still here. People are going to get it. The evidence is very clear and some of them are going to be teachers, some are going to be students, some are going to be maybe even some of us here. But we have to be careful, but we have to move forward. We cannot live in fear of the virus and shut down every institution in sight. It will not work. And it certainly won’t work here. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 7: (25:18)
I have two questions for Director Taylor. First, where is Dr. Bell?
Director Taylor: (25:25)
Where’s Dr. Bell?
Speaker 7: (25:26)
Director Taylor: (25:26)
She’s working at DHEC. She’s the head of our data area and she is in the middle of this response, and cannot be more happy to have her there.
Speaker 7: (25:35)
And my second question. I’ve spoken to a couple of coroners in the past few days and they’ve been saying they’ve had some inconsistencies with some death reportings of your numbers and their numbers. And I don’t know if maybe there’s an explanation on where there might be some confusion and inconsistency between those.
Director Taylor: (25:54)
Well, the coroners get their information through a different stream than we do sometimes, which can result in an inconsistencies. And every death, my understanding is, the coroner is not notified of every death in the county. It’s the deaths that they are involved in an investigation. And so between that and the lag in information sometimes related to the information that they receive and we receive can result in some inconsistencies. But we’ve been trying to work very closely with the coroners to get them the information that they need and that we can legally provide. That’s another issue, is that we’re restricted under the law as to who we can provide certain types of information.
Speaker 7: (26:39)
Is there a disconnect between you, the agency, and some coroners? I know one today in Kershaw was saying he’s had a lot of trouble trying to get ahold of people at DHEC to discuss about these inconsistencies.
Director Taylor: (26:52)
Well, there shouldn’t be a disconnect. And if there is then I need the coroners to call me and we’ll make sure that we communicate quickly and efficiently because the coroners are a very important part of this process across the state.
Speaker 8: (27:06)
Director, while you’re up there. So Dr. Duwve’s departure, how will that affect the agency’s response, especially if you don’t know who could be filling the role?
Director Taylor: (27:14)
Well, it will not affect the agency’s response. We have many qualified physicians still working at the agency and we have leadership in the public health area that are there now, and Dr. Duwve is going to be there until we determine who will take her spot. So it will be a seamless transition and we will continue to respond to this event as we have while Dr. Duwve was here and before Dr. Duwve was there. So thank you.
Speaker 9: (27:44)
Director Taylor, this week DHEC announced that thousands of negative COVID-19 tests weren’t in the database. Can you explain a little bit what happened there over the last few months, why thousands of these tests weren’t in that database?
Director Taylor: (27:56)
Well, many of the tests we didn’t receive. I believe there was a report due to misunderstanding by many of the labs across the state as to that they should be reporting both positive and negative results to us. And despite the fact that we put out notifications back in the early parts of the Spring saying that, that was necessary. So we have made it very clear to everyone that both negatives and positives are to be reported to DHEC and those are being entered into the system when we get them. And so that should clear up any problems going forward.
Speaker 9: (28:31)
Do you think that skewed the percent positive over the last few months that we’ve been seeing across the state?
Director Taylor: (28:38)
I don’t believe it. My understanding is there’s not a significant impact on that. But that will be determined once we receive all these results and we can look at the numbers going forward.
Governor McMaster: (28:49)
Back in the back, yes.
Speaker 10: (28:51)
You’re giving all this money to the schools that did follow your guidance to move back to five days a week, face to face. Is this somewhat of a punishment for those schools who maybe still need funding?
Governor McMaster: (29:00)
No, ma’am. It costs money to open a school. You have electric bills. You have to clean. When the people are in there, there’s a lot of expenses involved, and this is directed specifically at that. And we hope it will allow some more easily to open up.
Speaker 10: (29:16)
This was a healthy 28 year old teacher. How many teacher deaths is acceptable a week to continue five days a week?
Governor McMaster: (29:21)
Zero. No death, a teacher or otherwise. It’s always a tragedy. I didn’t know the young lady but what I read she sounded like a beautiful person. It’s sad. We’re sorry for the family, but we’ve had a lot of people die in this state because of this virus and that’s the reason we’re here is to keep that number as low as possible. And zero is the acceptable number. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 11: (29:45)
I have a question about the vaccine? Is there a particular percentage of South Carolinians that you would want to see covered by the vaccine that would help the state’s COVID problems?
Governor McMaster: (29:58)
I’ll answer that. All of them.
Speaker 11: (29:58)
Governor McMaster: (29:59)
But that’s not really possible at the beginning. Would you like to, Mr. White?
Stephen White: (30:03)
Yeah. So that’s a great question, and to Governor McMaster’s point, we would love for everybody to get vaccines. However, we do understand that not all communities and not all populations do receive vaccines. So we will do our best to manage expectations for when the vaccine is available. Just another point is that vaccine is only indicated at this moment in time for adults, not for children. So that’s very important as hopefully more vaccine will become available for children in time.
Speaker 12: (30:36)
On your list, when you say “critical infrastructure employees,” can you detail who is a priority among those? What’s critical infrastructure?
Stephen White: (30:43)
So there’s a very long list that the CDC and CESA and your groups, that we have, a list. And so I think we can provide that information maybe on our website to you. It’s a very long list.
Speaker 13: (30:58)
Following up on that, the CDC, as it states in a letter, to have distribution plan for vaccines in place by November 1st, is DHEC following that timeline in terms of expediting licenses and [inaudible 00:09:10]?
Stephen White: (31:12)
Right. So we are working closely with the CDC. We’re working with them on a weekly basis and sometimes even on a daily basis as new information is coming out. A vaccine plan is actually going to be due to the CDC prior to vaccine allocations coming to the states, which we hope to have by the end of the month. So, yes, to answer your question, we will be working with CDC on our vaccination plan and they will be intricately involved.
Speaker 14: (31:39)
I have a question for the Governor.
Speaker 15: (31:40)
My question is for the Governor as well.
Governor McMaster: (31:44)
Speaker 15: (31:44)
Obviously, there’s mixed reactions with vaccines when this is available and if you can take it, what would you?
Governor McMaster: (31:53)
I don’t know if I would be one that’s on the list to take it.
Speaker 15: (31:55)
When it’s available for more folks.
Governor McMaster: (31:59)
When it’s available, yes. And a flu shot.
Speaker 14: (32:02)
Would the Governor not be considered a priority to get a vaccine?
Governor McMaster: (32:05)
The Governor’s not a priority for some people.
Speaker 16: (32:12)
I have a question about colleges, Governor. Obviously, colleges across the state have been opening up. We’ve seen very high cases, including at the University of South Carolina. Bars in particular, bar owners in particular, have been raising some alarms. They feel like they’re in a tough spot, because they’re reopening trying to get business then, but then at the same time, colleges have been reopening and you have just a crush of students coming in. I’m wondering, what is your message to particularly University of South Carolina Clemson, your larger schools, where the schools are seeing high number of positive cases? What should they be doing to help limit that crush of students?
Governor McMaster: (32:50)
They’re doing it. President Caslen at the University of South Carolina and in Columbia as well as the regional campuses, and Jim Clements, President Clements-
Governor Henry McMaster: (33:03)
… and, Jim Clementes, President Clementes at Clemson, and others are working hard on their plans of what I’ve encouraged them to do is to do all they can to keep the students on campus, that is not going home, to keep them here where they can be in touch with them and can coordinate with them and see that they’re tested. And let me mention on the test, and we have confidence in the leadership of all of those leaders. But I would encourage everybody to get tested if you haven’t done it. I’ve done it, I think, four times, two the hands of Dr. Traxler, and there’s really nothing to it, and so I would encourage people to… It’s so widely available in our state and going to be more so when that team gets here, that it’s a good time to get tested, and it doesn’t hurt.
Speaker 17: (33:53)
Speaking of that, there’s been a real drop off in people getting tested. If or… do you or the director could address that? Why have we seen such a drop off?
Director Taylor: (34:04)
Well, we’re not exactly sure, but we think some of it is testing fatigue. People have been tested and the process can be uncomfortable to some, but that is actually getting better because there are new types of testing, saliva testing, also testing where you don’t go all the way up in the nasal cavity, but lower in the nasal cavity. So, the times of those painful tests are… not painful, but uncomfortable tests, are hopefully soon behind us. The other thing is I think there are a lot of asymptomatic people out there walking around with the disease that don’t have symptoms so you don’t think they need to get tested. And those are the people really that we really want to get tested so we know that they have the disease and that they can take the appropriate steps to protect themselves and their family and their friends. So, we are making testing wildly available. Just like the governor said, it’s easy. It’s no longer uncomfortable. And so we just would request that people get out and get tested.
Speaker 18: (35:14)
People are reporting death certificates of loved ones saying they had COVID when they were never tested or didn’t show symptoms. What are you guys doing to people who maybe don’t trust those death numbers because their loved one actually was never tested for COVID but it shows up on that certificate?
Director Taylor: (35:28)
Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m going to let Dr. Traxler speak to the death certificate issues.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (35:35)
Thank you, sir. Thank you, Director Taylor, Governor.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (35:38)
So, we not only take the report that we received from healthcare facilities and healthcare providers, but we also cross-match it with, as you said, the death certificate. We cross-match that death certificate then with labs to look for people who have tested positive. All of the confirmed deaths that we report out have tested positive. If someone is concerned that maybe the death certificate is incorrect, I would recommend that they reach out to the physician or medical provider who completed it and discuss it with them.
Speaker 18: (36:15)
But if you [inaudible 00:36:15] that person did not have a test but their certificate says COVID, but you check and they did not have a test, that number is not counted.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (36:21)
Those are considered probable. That person then, according to the death certificate and the rules of filling it out is in the professional judgment of that medical professional, had signs and symptoms and consistent with COVID-19. And so, but did not have any test performed. Those are the probable deaths. So there are… those do count as probable, but they do not count as confirmed.
Speaker 19: (36:45)
Director, I have a question about any inklings of the price of a vaccine, how much that would cost, and as well as for underserved or impoverished communities, would you be open to providing free vaccines for those who may not be able to afford it?
Speaker 20: (36:59)
Right, so when vaccines becomes available, so we currently do have some programs within DHEC that serve those types of populations that either don’t have insurance or they’re under insured and so, at this moment in time, yes, those considerations are being taken under consideration.
Speaker 19: (37:16)
And no price, approximately how much would it cost?
Speaker 20: (37:18)
No, we don’t want price or cost to be a barrier for vaccines.
Speaker 23: (37:22)
And Director Taylor, I have a question about saliva testing. We’ve seen it rolled out very successfully on USC’s campus testing a large number of students. Are there plans to roll this out widespread on the community level, and how accurate is saliva-based testing?
Director Taylor: (37:36)
So, there are plans to roll it out statewide and make that the primary way people will get tested. My understanding is that the level of accuracy is almost equivalent to the PCR, the other type of testing, the nasal-swab testing. And we are actually working with our laboratory to use the Yale model and put that in place that we can use that model. And we’re also working with USC to see if we can expand their resources so that they can take their testing beyond USC. So I do think that saliva testing is the testing of the future. And we are putting a lot of effort with our partners into saliva testing.
Speaker 23: (38:20)
[crosstalk 00:38:20] When might that be rolled out.
Director Taylor: (38:22)
Speaker 23: (38:22)
When might that be rolled out?
Director Taylor: (38:24)
It’s already being rolled out. We had a testing event last week in Aiken in partnership with USC, a very small testing event, but we are rolling that out as we speak. And so, it’ll be, until it’s statewide, it’ll be a few days, few weeks until it statewide, but it is getting rolled out currently.
Speaker 18: (38:43)
Director Taylor, what happened with that Sumter County death where we were told it was a child who died and turns out it was an eight-year-old, what happened there?
Director Taylor: (38:50)
So, the facility entered the information incorrectly into the system. And so, we report what is reported us. And, we had questions about that, and actually Dr. Traxler, if you’d like to speak to this more in more detail, she actually is the one that conducted the investigation on this.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (39:10)
Thank you. So, as Director Taylor said, it was reported to us initially as a pediatric death with a date of birth corresponding to that. And so, that is what we report out. That information was provided to county leaderships before it went to the press that day. We then, and we’re already in the process of doing this investigation into the death and through that investigation determined that the date of birth was keyed in inaccurately into the system and into our system by the other health care facility. And so, it was actually an elderly individual. So we… I immediately contacted folks at DHEC, the governor’s office, and the coroner’s office in Sumter to let them know of that.
Director Taylor: (39:53)
Was it a nursing home that reported the death to you?
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (39:57)
It was a healthcare facility.
Speaker 22: (39:59)
Governor Henry McMaster: (40:01)
[inaudible 00:40:01] next question.
Speaker 22: (40:01)
I have a vaccine question. I know that you mentioned that it’s not being offered right now once it becomes available to kids. But I am wondering, when it does become to children, we know that there are certain vaccines that kids need to get in order to go to school. Do you foresee a COVID vaccine as being a requirement by DHEC in order for kids to go to school?
Speaker 21: (40:21)
I don’t think we’ve had that discussion yet. Governor… Director.
Director Taylor: (40:26)
So that actually is a decision by the legislature as to who get… what vaccines are required to go to school.
Speaker 22: (40:32)
Do you recommend that they pass that?
Director Taylor: (40:39)
Speaker 22: (40:40)
I’m sorry, do you recommend that they take that up next year and pass that.
Director Taylor: (40:44)
I believe that they probably will.
Governor Henry McMaster: (40:47)
Thank you very much for coming, and we’ll see you next time. Thank you.