There’s a star-studded reason B-L has lost its COVID-19 screening

The day after this article originally appeared on The Twin-City News website, a new event presented by Lexington Medical Center in cooperation with DHEC was scheduled for June 23 in Batesburg-Leesville.

Just as rural Batesburg-Leesville was approaching what would have been its first public testing event since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, it seems the stars were aligned instead for a big-city screening a few miles up the road.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Prisma Health were to have partnered to host a mobile coronavirus testing event this Saturday at Batesburg-Leesville Elementary School. However, that free screening was abruptly canceled over the weekend.

Instead, DHEC and Prisma Health now will marshal their forces for a two-day COVID-19 drive-through event at Benedict College’s Charlie W. Johnson Stadium this Friday and Saturday in downtown Columbia. That free screening is planned for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days.

Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is 36.9 miles from Batesburg-Leesville.

The City of Columbia also is a partner with this weekend’s two-day event in the capital city, as are apparently two celebrity South Carolinians: late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert and nationally-syndicated radio personality Charlamagne Tha God.

The State newspaper reported Sunday that Colbert and Charlamagne are supporting the Columbia event that forced the cancellation of the Batesburg-Leesville screening.

“Columbia has set an aggressive goal to test all of our citizens for COVID-19 to effectively slow the spread of the coronavirus across the Midlands of South Carolina. As a result we have partnered with some incredible South Carolinians who have made their mark on the national and international stage to promote free and convenient testing opportunities next week,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in a press release.

Colbert, who grew up in the Charleston area, often references his home state in comedic bits during his nightly CBS series, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He also recently recorded a COVID-19 public service announcement for DHEC from his home, where he has produced his talk show since the outbreak closed his New York studio. In the PSA, Colbert urges his fellow South Carolinians to practice social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions.

Charlamagne Tha God (real name Lenard McKelvey) is a native of Moncks Corner in Berkeley County who began his radio career as an intern at a Charleston hip-hop station. He later worked for two stations in the Columbia market before leaving South Carolina in 2006 for New York radio. His nationally-syndicated The Breakfast Club originates from Power 105.1 in Manhattan.

While Columbia’s Mayor Benjamin wants “to test all of (Columbia’s) citizens,” Batesburg-Leesville has not yet hosted even one mobile screening event since the pandemic began spreading across the Palmetto State in March. This, as the case count continues to rise along this rural western edge of the Midlands.

The total number of infections in two Batesburg-Leesville zip codes (29006 and 29070) increased dramatically again with Monday’s latest tally to a total of 82 cases. That translates to four new cases recorded in the Twin Cities area since Saturday.

Across Lexington County, there were 30 new cases recorded by DHEC, according to Monday’s release. The most recent data release from DHEC shows that 582 new cases statewide were added to the total Monday, bringing the overall count to 19,378 infections since counting began. The death toll now stands at 602 statewide

Prisma Health did not respond to e-mails requesting comment on the abrupt cancellation of the Batesburg-Leesville testing.

Here is the PSA that Stephen Colbert produced for DHEC: