If you were told that you’re a close contact of someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19, you should quarantine at home for at least 7-10 days and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. Details regarding quarantine can be found here.
What does it mean to be a close contact of someone with COVID-19?
A 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 total during a day). In addition, close contacts include people who provide care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19; people who had direct physical contact with the infected person (e.g. hugged or kissed them); people who shared eating and drinking utensils (forks, spoons, cups or glasses) with the sick person; and people who were sneezed or coughed on by someone with COVID-19.
This close contact definition is based on how the virus is spread 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.
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 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 avoiding contact with people in their household as much as it is possible.
For COVID-19, the quarantine period is ten (10) days from the time of last exposure to the person with the disease. For those who live in the same house as someone who has COVID-19, they should continue to quarantine until fourteen (14) 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. Please refer to updated quarantine guidance for Options To Shorten Quarantine for COVID-19.
If you are a close contact to someone who had COVID-19 and were told to quarantine, DHEC recommends you get tested even if you have no symptoms. If negative, you could be tested again 5-7 days after last exposure or immediately if symptoms develop. Even if you test negative between day 5-7, you must complete the 7 day quarantine period. If you test positive for COVID-19, you must isolate according the guidance provided below.
I was in the same room/building as someone who tested positive for 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 physical distancing, washing your hands often, wearing a face mask while in confined public places, and avoiding close contact with sick people.
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.
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. 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.
Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:
- 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)
- Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure
Persons who do not meet the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
I am unvaccinated and have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. Do I have to quarantine after close contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19?
Unvaccinated persons who have tested antibody positive within 3 months before or immediately following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and who have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure do not need to quarantine in low-risk situations.
- Low risk situations include settings where contact with persons at high risk of COVID-19 severe illness is not anticipated for at least 10 days following exposure. Persons of high risk include older adults and persons with certain medical conditions.
Individuals should still monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 during the 14 days after exposure and if symptoms of COVID-19, develop they should isolate and seek testing.
Additional information about FDA approved antibody tests can be found here.