Frequently Asked Questions (COVID-19)

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When getting tested for COVID-19, confirm with the testing staff how and when you will receive your results.

Have a general question about COVID-19? Call the DHEC Care Line at 
1-855-472-3432 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.

For mental health or substance abuse services related to COVID-19 call the statewide support line 24/7
at 1-844-724-6737 (1-844-SC-HOPES).

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Other symptoms are possible as well as this is a new virus we are still learning about.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing means staying home as much as possible, staying at least 6 feet away from other people while in public, and avoiding gatherings with many people present. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms may also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. Everyone should wash their hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.  These are the best ways to protect yourself and our communities from the spread of COVID-19. 

Should I wear a face mask?

You could spread COVID-19 to others if you are infected with the virus even if you do not feel sick. It is recommended that everyone wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.  The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected. Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

What is quarantine?

Quarantine is used to separate people who are close contacts of someone with a contagious disease, like COVID-19, from others for a period of time to see if they become sick.  This is a method to prevent the spread of disease.  When someone is quarantining, they should stay home and avoid contact with other people until the quarantine period is over. This includes people in their household as much as it is possible.

For COVID-19, the quarantine period is 14 days from the time of last exposure to the person with COVID-19.  For those who live in the same house as someone who has COVID-19, they should continue to quarantine until 14 days after the date the person with COVID-19 is told they no longer need to practice isolation. CDC provides guidance on how to determine the time needed to quarantine.

What is isolation?

Similar to quarantine, isolation is recommended for those who are sick with symptoms of COVID-19 and have tested positive or are waiting on the results of a test. As with quarantine, they must remain at home or the place they were told to isolate and avoid contact with other people until their isolation period is over. This includes those in their household as much as possible.

Generally the isolation period for COVID-19 continues until each of these conditions is met:

  • Your symptoms (such as cough and shortness of breath) are better - AND –
  • At least 10 days have passed since your illness onset – AND –
  • You have had no fever for at least 24 hours and have not used fever-reducing medication during that time.

People should talk with their doctor about how long they should plan to isolate. Some people who are very ill or who have medical problems that affect their immune system will be told they need to isolate for 20 days after their symptoms started. Those who never have symptoms can use the date their test sample was collected.

What does it mean to be a close contact of someone with COVID-19?

Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 for at least several minutes (usually about 15 minutes).  The virus is spread primarily from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.  That is why it is so important to wash your hands often and clean frequently touched surfaces at least daily.

I am a close contact to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do?

A person who is sick with COVID-19 is most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to others just before they have symptoms and at the beginning of their symptoms. That is why anyone who is sick should avoid contact with others and stay home unless leaving to get medical care.  It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.  That is why it is so important to wash your hands often.  If you are a close contact to a person with COVID-19, it is recommended that you self-quarantine and stay away from other people as much as possible for 14 days from the last date of exposure to the person. It is recommended that you get tested but no sooner then seven (7) days after first contact with the person when they were contagious with the virus or immediately if you develop symptoms. It takes time for the virus to build up in your body so it can become detected by the lab test. You must complete the full 14 days of quarantine even if you test negative because it is possible the virus was not yet able to be detected by the lab test.

I was in the same room/building as someone who tested positive COVID-19, but not in close contact with him/her. What should I do?

If you were not in close contact with someone with COVID-19, your risk of catching the virus from that person is low.  Follow the general precautions, including social distancing, washing your hands often and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

I was a close contact to someone who is sick but not tested for COVID-19. What should I do?

If you were around someone while they had symptoms, like fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus or another respiratory virus that causes similar symptoms, like the flu or the common cold. You should continue to practice social distancing, wash your hands often and monitor for symptoms.

If you develop any symptoms, you should isolate at home and avoid contact with other people. Call your doctor or other healthcare provider to discuss the need to be tested for COVID-19. Some people who are experiencing these symptoms may have another virus, or it could be seasonal allergies (hay fever).

Resources are available at the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

I have symptoms but did not get tested. How long do I need to stay isolated?

If symptoms are mild, you should still get tested. If you are not able to get tested, you should plan to isolate like someone would if they test positive for the virus. It is recommended that you do isolate and avoid contact with others until:

  • Your symptoms (such as cough and shortness of breath) are better - AND –
  • At least 10 days have passed since your illness onset – AND –
  • You have had no fever for at least 24 hours and have not used fever-reducing medication during that time.

I have been around someone else who was exposed to a person with COVID-19. What should I do?

To be exposed to COVID-19 you must be around the person who had it when they had symptoms or within 2 days of when their symptoms started. If you were not, you may not have been exposed to the virus.

It is recommended to watch for symptoms, avoid close contact with people who are sick, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and practice social distancing.

I live in the same house as someone who is under quarantine. What should I do?

Quarantine separates people who were exposed to a contagious disease, like COVID-19, to see if they become sick and prevent spread of disease.  For COVID-19, the quarantine period is 14 days after the person’s last exposure to someone with COVID-19.  If you are in a house that also has a quarantined individual, that person should try as much as possible to keep their distance from the others in the house. This can understandably be a great challenge, especially when the quarantined individual is a child or a parent caring for a child.

Try to keep the person in their own room, if possible and use a separate bathroom, if available. Before going into shared areas, the person quarantining should wash their hands, try to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and others, and cover any coughs or sneezes. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily and do not share personal household items like dishes, glasses, utensils or towels. Others in the house should also maintain good hand washing habits. The quarantined individual should immediately isolate if they become sick and contact his/her healthcare provider.

I am caring for someone who is sick with symptoms of COVID-19. What should I do?

If the person is well enough to not need close care, they should stay in one room, away from other people. If possible, have them use a separate bathroom. Avoid sharing personal household items, like dishes, towels and bedding. If the sick person needs to be around others, they should wear a facemask, if available. If the sick person can’t wear a facemask, you should wear one while in the same room, if available. Always wash your hands while caring for them, as well as frequently throughout the day.  Frequently, at least every day, clean all surfaces that are touched often.  Avoid having any unnecessary visitors.  Monitor the person for worsening symptoms and if the person is getting sicker, call their healthcare provider.  For medical emergencies, call 911 and make sure to notify them that the person has COVID-19.

It is recommended that you get tested but no sooner than seven (7) days after the person you are caring for became sick or immediately if you develop symptoms. If you test positive (that you have the virus), you should isolate at home (see above). If you test negative (that you do not have the virus), you must quarantine at home for 14 days after the person you are caring for was cleared to stop isolating (see above).

More information is available at the CDC website:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html

Should I get tested if I am not sick?

The test that is done with a swab of the nose or mouth detects if the virus is present. There is a delay between the time that someone is exposed to the virus and the time that the virus can be detected through this testing. It can only be reliably detected when someone is sick with symptoms. If someone tests negative for the virus when they are not sick, this does not mean they will not eventually become sick. This should be considered when someone gets tested when they do not have symptoms. If you were a close contact to someone contagious with the virus, you should get tested even if you do not have symptoms but no sooner than seven (7) days after your first contact with the person when they were contagious with the virus or seven (7) days after they got sick if you see them almost every day.

Should I get the antibody test to determine if I had the virus?

There are many new tests on the market that test for antibodies against the virus. We are still learning about these tests. DHEC does not recommend using them for someone who is sick to determine if they are currently infected with the virus. Any results should be interpreted carefully understanding that the reliability of the tests is not known at this time. No one should assume they are immune to the virus on the basis of the antibody tests.

Can families visit their loved ones residing in nursing homes and assisted living facilities?

On Friday, March 13, 2020, Governor McMaster signed an Executive Order that directed DHEC to restrict visitation to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state, with the exception of end-of-life situations. The Governor’s Order is still in place and therefore families should not visit residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, unless they meet the exception of their loved one being in an end-of-life situation. More information regarding what constitutes an end-of-life situation and additional visitation details are available in the Updated FAQs for Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities.

Can I visit businesses that provide tanning services, tattoos, and body piercings?

Facilities that provide these services were authorized to reopen in limited capacity on May 18, 2020, as per the Governor's May 11, 2020 Press Conference. We encourage you to first contact the facilities providing these services to make sure that they have voluntarily chosen to reopen. If open for business, these facilities should adhere to DHEC’s Reopening Guidance for Close-Contact Services and the CDC's Reopening Guidance.

What are reopening guidelines?

These guidelines are intended to assist both businesses and customers as places previously closed or who reduced their workforce during the pandemic begin to reopen.  They are not laws, so they cannot be enforced. They are recommended practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A guideline for reopening is not a requirement to reopen, nor a requirement for customers to visit open establishments. Some businesses may decide to remain closed, just as some customers may decide to continue to stay home.

The general guidelines of social distancing, frequent hand washing, covering coughs or sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting commonly used surfaces, and not touching faces with unwashed hands, remains good health practices in addition to other specific guidelines that may be in place.

Where can I find reopening guidelines?

You can find reopening guidelines on the Governor’s AccelerateSC website. Check the website regularly for updates and/or new guidance documents. 

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Community Survey COVID-19 Statewide