Frequently Asked Questions (COVID-19)

Thursday, March 26, 4:38 pm 
This page will be updated regularly as information becomes available. 

Exclamamtion Alert  Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

DHEC continues to work with federal, state and local partners as it investigates COVID-19 cases in South Carolina. DHEC’s top priority remains protecting the public during this national and state emergency.

This page was created as a resource to help answer frequently ask questions that we have received from the public.

If you have fever, cough or shortness of breath, please call your healthcare provider. Also, for a free online health assessment, please see our listing of telehealth virtual care providers in South Carolina.

If you are looking for COVID-19 test results, please call the health care provider/facility who collected the sample. Results cannot be obtained from the DHEC Care Line.

If you have general questions about COVID-19, call the DHEC Care Line at 1-855-472-3432 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.


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. 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.  Brief close contact (being within 6 feet for a short time) is not sufficient to spread the virus.

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.  For COVID-19, the quarantine period is 14 days from the time of last exposure to the person with COVID-19.  

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.  The virus is spread primarily from person to person through respiratory droplets from when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  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 when they have 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.  

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:

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

If symptoms are mild, it may not be necessary to test. Those who can isolate at home for seven days after their symptoms start could consider doing that rather than trying to seek testing. They could stop isolating if it has been seven days since the symptoms started and at least three days since the last fever.

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

If the person you were in close contact with is not currently sick and you were not around the person with COVID-19, you are not considered exposed to COVID-19.  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.  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.  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.

More information is available at the CDC website:

Why can’t I be tested if I’m not sick?

There is a delay between the time that someone is exposed to the virus and the time that the virus can be detected through 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. For these reasons, anyone concerned they may have been exposed to the virus should not plan to get tested until they become sick.

Is there an accessible interactive map that tracks positive COVID-19 cases in South Carolina?

Yes, DHEC’s new COVID-19 state map provides the number of cases by county and is updated daily:

What information about confirmed positive cases does DHEC release?

The amount of information DHEC provides is limited, particularly in cases that occur in small or other close-knit communities where even basic pieces of information could identify an individual. DHEC will always provide the information that’s necessary for residents to protect themselves. We rely on residents trusting DHEC to not release their personal information so that they are cooperative and forthcoming during our disease investigation activities.

Our top priorities remain preventing the spread of the disease and protecting public health. This includes working to control spread and sharing measures that best protect our neighbors, friends and family. 

Will DHEC track all reported deaths from COVID-19?

DHEC will publicly report COVID-19-related deaths as they are reported to the agency. Positive cases of COVID-19 are required to be immediately reported to DHEC. We are working closely with our hospital partners to ensure the department is immediately notified of a COVID-19-related death.

We’ve provided guidance to death certifiers (coroners, physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants) on how to appropriately complete the cause of death in the event of a COVID-19-related death.

As background, deaths are not required to be immediately reported to DHEC. Deaths are required to be reported to DHEC’s Office of Vital Statistics within five days.

Can I get tested for COVID-19?

Testing for COVID-19 requires an evaluation from a health care provider because symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to flu and other common viruses. Your provider will determine whether you should be tested.

There is no testing that will identify the illness before someone experiences symptoms. You should not get tested if you are not ill.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Patients who are not severely ill and who do not have significant underlying medical conditions are best advised to stay home, monitor their condition, and call their provider if their condition worsens. For patients who have underlying medical conditions it may be useful that they contact their provider early. The provider can explain what the patient should look for in monitoring their condition.

What if I have symptoms?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough or shortness of breath) and may have been exposed to someone with the illness, please call your health care provider to seek care. Contacting your health care provider ahead of time will make sure you get the care you need without putting others at risk. Additionally, several South Carolina health systems are offering telehealth options to the public.

What is considered a high-grade fever?

The CDC defines a fever in adults as anything above 100.4 F. A high-grade fever is typically anything above 103 F.

Are there any costs associated with the COVID-19 test?

All testing is free, but there may be an associated costs for a health care visit. The Governor has asked insurance companies to cover the full cost of visits related to this virus.

What is the treatment for COVID-19?

Most people with coronavirus infections get better on their own. The CDC recommends anyone with COVID-19 to stay home from work, school, and public places; get rest and stay hydrated; and monitor your symptoms. While there are no specific treatments for COVID-19 patients who are more severely ill can be treated at hospitals. As we learn more about this virus, treatment recommendations may change.

What can the public do to limit the spread of COVID-19?

  • Know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if you become symptomatic
  • If you're sick, stay home from work, school, and public events
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Don’t share personal items 
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces
  • Set up a separate room for sick household members
  • Check in with family and friends who live alone—especially those who may be in a high-risk group

What essential items do people need a supply of during a quarantine?

CDC and DHEC recommend creating a prep kit that includes a two-week supply of essential items for each member of your household, such as medication, non-perishable food items, baby supplies, pet supplies, etc. 

Resources on how to prepare and take action for COVID-19:

Should public events be cancelled? (as of March 23, 2020)

The executive order signed by Governor McMaster on March 23, 2020, discourages the gathering of groups of three people or more outside of homes. A previous order the governor signed March 17, 2020, prohibits organized events of more than 50 persons in a facility owned or operated by the state, county, city, or other public entity. Essential government functions are exempted. In addition, the CDC recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events of 50 people or more.

Should I be concerned about going to public places like the grocery store?

Transmission of the illness requires significant close contact with an ill individual. Brief contact in a public setting is not considered a high-risk exposure. DHEC would advise of no additional measures for anyone present in these settings beyond what has been recommended for communities in general. This includes monitoring for symptoms, practicing social distancing, and washing hands often.

What does the South Carolina State of Emergency mean?

Governor McMaster declared a state of emergency in South Carolina on March 13, 2020. A Public Health Emergency helps us draw attention to the importance of the recommendations we have always given about how to prevent spread of COVID-19. The message about the effectiveness of good hygiene, social distancing and the importance of those who are ill to protect others by staying out of public places is the same.

Will daycare facilities and preschools close due to COVID-19? 

DHEC has been providing current CDC guidance to schools and daycare facilities here. Please also see this information from the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) here

Why can’t I visit South Carolina nursing homes or assisted living facilities? (as of March 13, 2020)

In order to take precautions for members of South Carolina’s vulnerable populations, DHEC is immediately restricting visitation to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, with the exception of end-of-life situations.

Visitation in healthcare facilities has been restricted except for patients on end-of-life care. What does “end of life” mean?

End-of-life situations may include patients receiving hospice, palliative, or other compassionate care. The current DHEC guidance for assisted and independent living facilities visitation restrictions can be found here.

Why can’t I visit a South Carolina correctional facility or jail?  (as of March 13, 2020)

Governor McMaster’s order on March 13 directed that visitation at state and local correctional facilities in all 46 counties shall be suspended immediately.

What is DHEC doing about the passengers disembarking from the Carnival Cruise Line ship?

A Carnival Cruise Line ship disembarked in Charleston on March 16, 2020. DHEC worked with the CDC Cruise Ship Task Force and the Senior Ship Physician aboard this vessel to ensure that no passengers were exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19. All 2,441 passengers have been regularly monitored throughout the duration of the trip, which was to Nassau, Bahamas.

Information about COVID-19 has been distributed in English and Spanish to the passengers and crew, and anyone who may develop any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 is advised to immediately contact their health care provider. Find more information here.