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S.C. sheriff’s dept. chosen for COVID-19 rapid testing pilot program

The pilot involves testing first responders on a large scale with little notice

RCSD Region 2 testing site.jpg

Pictured are Deputy Deandre Jennings following his test, and Mr. Kevin Bland, project director of Rapid Reliable Testing.


The Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) in South Carolina was selected by the South Carolina Dept. of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to be the pilot agency for a COVID-19 testing program in which first responders will be tested quickly on a large scale with little notice.

“DHEC notified us last week that we had been tapped to be the lead,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. “They chose us because we’re one of the largest agencies in the state. They wanted to see how quickly it would be done, how effective it would be, and would we agree to be the pilot.”

Lott agreed, and a COVID-19 testing team from Rapid Reliable Testing, a national medical testing company contracted by DHEC, was flown to Columbia, South Carolina, from Santa Rosa, California.

Three days of testing began October 21 and will conclude October 23 at RCSD’s Region Two headquarters facility. As of midday October 22, approximately 400 deputies and non-sworn employees of RCSD had been tested with saliva samples being overnighted to Rapid Reliable’s laboratory in Los Angeles. Results are expected within 24-48 hours.

“The test project here in South Carolina has been very successful so far,” said Kevin Bland, Rapid Reliable Testing’s national project director. “We were hoping for a turnout of about 100 people on day one. We’ve instead tested 294 the first day.”

According to Lott, “Though the testing is voluntary, we’ve encouraged our people to respond and they have. I think everyone appreciates the importance of testing. We want our deputies to have peace of mind, and through this, they will. And DHEC is developing this program so that they will be able to test all first responders on a large scale; testing a large volume of people in a very short period of time.”

Employing approximately 900 personnel, RCSD serves communities within and surrounding Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina, and greater Richland County.

W. Thomas Smith Jr., a special deputy with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department in Richland County, South Carolina, is a formerly deployed U.S. Marine infantry leader and former SWAT team officer in the nuclear industry.