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. Monday-Friday.

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. Symptoms of COVID-19 include but aren't limited to:

  • 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

What is physical distancing?

Physical distancing, or social distancing, is keeping at least six feet of space between you and others to help prevent disease spread. 

Should I wear a face mask?

On July 27, 2021, the CDC provided updated guidance, including that fully vaccinated people should wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission and in areas where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

Fully vaccinated people might choose to mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated. People who are at increased risk for severe disease include older adults and those who have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, overweight or obesity, and heart conditions.

Unvaccinated people need to continue to wear masks indoors (and outdoors when distancing is not possible), physically distance and follow all other disease prevention methods. You can get vaccinated today at a location near you.

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. The latest COVID-19 quarantine guidance from the CDC is available here.

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 (a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period). 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.

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 quarantine, self-monitor for symptoms and stay away from other people as much as possible for 14 days from the last date of exposure to the person. However, there is an option to shorten the quarantine period. It is recommended that you get tested immediately, even if you have no symptoms. You may get tested again 5-7 days after your last exposure and, if negative, you may end quarantine after completing 7 days of quarantine. However, you should still monitor for symptoms for 14 days. If you test positive for COVID-19, you should isolate at home.

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 closer than 6 feet to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, your risk of catching the virus from that person is low. Continue to follow the general precautions, including physical distancing, wearing a cloth face covering that covers your mouth and nose when around others, washing your hands often.

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 physical distancing, wash your hands often, wear a face mask while in confined public places and monitor for symptoms for 14 days after your last contact.

If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, you should seek testing, isolate at home and avoid contact with other people. Call your doctor or other healthcare provider to discuss evaluation, testing and possible treatments for COVID-19.

You may also seek telehealth evaluation and find testing site resources on DHEC’s website.

More information on types of COVID-19 testing and what the results mean are available here.

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 have been within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 while they were contagious whether or not they had symptoms. The contagious period is 2 days before symptoms begin or for those who do not experience symptoms 2 days before the test sample was collected. People who have been exposed to individuals with COVID-19 are asked to quarantine so that if they develop the disease, they will not be around others during their contagious period.

EXAMPLE: Monday, MARY visited JANE for lunch. Monday evening, MARY had dinner with JOE. Tuesday, JANE was not feeling well and went for testing. JANE tested positive for COVID-19 and was asked to isolate herself. MARY was considered a close contact and was asked to get Tested and Quarantine. JOE would not need to take any action since he did not have any direct interaction with JANE.

I am caring for someone who has COVID-19. What should I do?

Getting your COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourself.

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 person with COVID-19 needs to be around others, everyone should wear a face mask, if available. If the sick person can’t wear a face mask, 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.  At least every day, clean all surfaces that are touched often.  Avoid having any unnecessary visitors.  Monitor the person for development or 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.

Recommendation about quarantine and getting tested when you are caring for someone with COVID-19 depend on whether you are fully vaccinated.

If you are fully vaccinated* and have no symptoms:

  • You do not need to quarantine.
  • Wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until a negative test result.
  • Get tested 3-5 days after the initial close contact with the person with COVID-19, and 3-5 days after they complete isolation.
  • Get tested and isolate immediately if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms

If you are not fully vaccinated

  • You DO need to quarantine during the time you are taking care of the person with COVID-19 until they complete their isolation PLUS an additional 14 days.
    • There are options to shorten the quarantine period, but again the quarantine follows the 10 days of isolation.
  • Monitor for symptoms. 
  • Get tested 5-7 days after the initial close contact with the person with COVID-19. 
  • Get tested and isolate immediately if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

If you test positive (that you have the virus), you should isolate at home (see above).

Should I get tested if I am not sick?

Fully vaccinated people with no COVID-19-like symptoms and no known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 don't necessarily need to get tested routinely. Testing is recommended if someone vaccinated or unvaccinated is considered a close contact to someone with COVID-19 whether of not they experience symptoms or feel sick.

*NOTE: People are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine) Persons who do not meet the above criteria should follow the guidance for unvaccinated people.


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