Frequently Asked Questions (COVID-19)

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.

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: 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, it may not be necessary to test. Those who can isolate at home for at least seven days after their symptoms start could consider doing that rather than trying to seek testing. It is recommended that you do isolate and avoid contact with others until:

  • Your respiratory symptoms (such as cough and shortness of breath) are better - AND –
  • At least 7 days have passed since your illness onset – AND –
  • You have been fever free without the use of fever-reducing medication for 3 days

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:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html

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.

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COVID-19 Statewide