COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina’s lead health agency said Tuesday it is working to address issues with multiple COVID-19 testing vendors and reporting facilities for failures to process tests and report results due to a surge in cases that began around the December holidays.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said most COVID-19 tests – about 97% – are processed at large, non-DHEC labs.

“While DHEC’s Public Health Lab, which has a daily capacity of 2,500 samples, is operating at that capacity and currently not experiencing any delays, large private labs such as Premier Medical Laboratory Services have fallen significantly behind due to issues ranging from the sheer volume of samples to COVID-related internal staffing shortages and still have not caught up or met contractually obligated deadlines to do so,” the agency said.

DHEC also said some private testing vendors have fallen “so far behind in reporting results” that the agency had to take what it called an unprecedented step of recommending people finish what would have been their isolation time or return to work if it had been more than five days and they still had not received test results.

“DHEC knows the delays being experienced by some Carolinians are unacceptable and is taking every step to hold the responsible labs and vendors accountable and get results back in a timely fashion,” officials said. “DHEC sincerely apologizes to all those negatively impacted by the substandard performance of select vendors and is working diligently to correct those issues. The safety and welfare of the citizens of South Carolina remain DHEC’s overriding concern.”