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Local groups are running pop-up testing sites in South Carolina

Amid a surge in COVID-19 infections in South Carolina, PBS NewsHour Weekend visits a mobile testing site in Orangeburg County. Organized by the statewide chapter of the African Methodist Espicopal - or AME - churches, it was one of dozens of pop-up testing sites around the state this week to help increase coronavirus testing. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Another state grappling with a sharp increase in infections is South Carolina. Yesterday, state health officials announced more than 1,700 new cases in the last 24 hours, which is more than double the number of daily cases a month ago.

    As cases around the state increase, mobile testing sites organized and run by local community groups have sprung up to get as many people tested as possible.

    Before the banner announcing COVID testing had even been set up, the cars were lined up outside Good Hope AME Church in Cope, South Carolina. Once the tents were finally up and testing supplies organized, the first person in the hot seat was the church's pastor, Reverend Georgeann Pringle.

    Pringle says she had been trying to get a testing site like this to come for months – to test the members of her mostly older, African-American congregation, but also the general public in this rural area about 40 miles south of the state's capital, Columbia.

  • Rev. Georgeann Pringle:

    Oftentimes the people in the rural areas don't have access to healthcare like people in the city in larger areas. And so this is a great event for us.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    This "pop-up" COVID-19 testing site was open for 3 hours on Thursday evening and tested 137 people for free. It's part of a surge of eight testing events this week organized by the statewide district of AME churches in South Carolina. Bishop Samuel green leads the district.

  • Bishop Samuel Green:

    The African-American population is very much affected because of the health disparities. And even with the numbers of cases in South Carolina, in relationship to the population of African-Americans, it's disproportionate. So we wanted to as a church to take part in trying to help getting our people tested and hopefully to slow down the spread.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    South Carolina has become a growing epicenter of COVID-19, with more than 50,000 confirmed cases. While the number of tests has increased over the last month, thanks in part to mobile testing and pop-up sites across the state, the percentage of positive tests has also been rising, an indication of growing spread.

    In Cope, most of the people who came to the Good Hope AME testing site were not symptomatic, but wanted to know if they were carrying the virus or not. Michelle Young waited a little over two hours to get tested.

  • Michelle Young:

    It was not comfortable at all, but I'm glad I did it so that I can know: positive, negative.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Cora Calloway was just glad to get a test, since she's heard the kits can be in short supply.

  • Cora Calloway:

    All the other places that's doing it, you have to get there very, very early in order to get tested because they run out.

  • Bishop Samuel Green:

    We keep hearing that everybody can be tested, but everybody can't be tested if they do not have adequate supplies.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Green says after another church testing site he organized ran out of supplies earlier in the day, he arranged to have 2,000 more test kits sent from neighboring Georgia to have enough for this weekend. Even if small testing sites like this one are just a fraction of what the state requires, Green sees the church's efforts as a crucial part of its mission.

  • Bishop Samuel Green:

    We in the AME church believe in holistic ministry and just the worship service on Sunday morning, and our people are dying Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, would be really a tragedy and an indictment up our ministry if we did not reach out beyond the walls and minister to all people.

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