COLUMBIA, S.C. -- First responders are flying blind as they respond to emergency calls during the COVID-19 pandemic — and that may not change anytime soon.
"DHEC still refuses to share addresses of positive cases with first responders," Dusty Owens, Florence County Emergency Management Division director, said Tuesday.
"We want all South Carolinians, regardless of the number of reported positive cases within their community, to take the same daily precautions to protect against this virus," DHEC said through a prepared statement on the issue.
The state agency — South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control — said it instead reports the number of cases by ZIP code to first responders on a daily basis.
Owens said the situation is especially frustrating for South Carolina first responders as both Georgia and North Carolina have provided that information to their first-response agencies.
Owens said previously that the state provides agencies information on residents who have certain communicable diseases so that responders can take the appropriate cautions on scene and en route with a patient.
Owens said he also is lacking key information about the safety of nursing home residents.
"I have no way of knowing as, up to this point, DHEC will not tell us location addresses of positive cases or addresses of our confirmed deaths," Owens said.
"DHEC initially also provided this information on its website, however, the amount of information DHEC provides publicly is limited, particularly in cases that occur in small or other close-knit communities where even basic pieces of information could identify an individual," according to a prepared statement issued by DHEC.
"The Department is in the process of overhauling its COVID-19 webpage, and as part of that revamping, we’re working on the most appropriate way to provide positive case information publicly while also protecting individual privacy, as required by state and federal laws," according to the statement.
The current site displays the number of positive COVID-19 tests of county residents per county along with the number of reported deaths of residents per county. The site also displays the number of tests handled through public health laboratories that have come back negative.
The revamped website is scheduled to go live this week, according to the DHEC statement.