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Testing Guide

Need-to-Know Info About Testing and COVID-19

*these materials cannot be used for unsolicited door to door activities.

Who should get tested? 

Anyone can get tested for COVID-19. In particular, DHEC recommends the following three types of individuals get tested to curb the spread.  

  1. You have symptoms—if you're experiencing COVID-19, separate from others and get tested as soon as possible.

  2. You've been in close contact—if you've been within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes with someone who has COVID-19, get tested even if you dont have symptoms. This includes children, too.

  3. You're out and about in the community—the more you're out and about, the more likely you are to come into contact with people who have the virus and don't know it or show it. If you have a public-facing job or you're regularly socializing with others outside your household, get tested once a month.

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Have symptoms? Get tested. 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • New loss or taste or smell
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
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COVID-19 Testing Locations in SC

You have several testing options across the state. 

  • Free DHEC Testing—testing available to everyone, free of charge. We encourage you to pre-register, and no referral or insurance information is required. 
  • Health Clinic, Pharmacy & Third-Party Testing—a number of other facilities offer COVID testing. Pricing, scheduling, and referral requirements are specific to each location. Need a referral? Explore your telehealth options
  • Homebound Testing—Richland and Clarendon County offer at-home testing for residents unable to access testing. Call 911 Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm for information.

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Testing FAQs

About the Test

Is testing free?

Recently-passed federal laws ensure that COVID-19 testing is free to anyone in the United States, including the uninsured.  

Can I get a painless COVID-19 test?

COVID-19 tests shouldn’t be painful – they’re just mildly uncomfortable for most people. And tests are free, with no out-of-pocket costs to you, whether or not you have health insurance.  

What type of test should I get?

There are different types of tests for COVID-19 currently available. All have their own limitations, and no test is 100% accurate all the time.

1. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) or Nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) is currently considered the best test to determine if someone was recently infected with the virus. This type of testing, also called molecular or viral testing, is done by swabbing the nose or mouth or collecting saliva. The test detects a part of the virus’s genetic material. 

2. Antigen tests are done by swabbing the nose. Instead of detecting the virus’ genetic material, they detect a protein on the virus. These are often available as “rapid” tests that can be done in medical offices. The faster results make this a very useful test.

3. Blood test, antibody or serology testing is done using a sample of blood and detects antibodies produced as a result of the body trying to fight off the virus. These tests are most useful for determining if someone has been exposed to the virus in the past. These tests are NOT recommended to determine if someone is currently infected.

Learn more about each test and limitations to consider. 

Can antibody tests diagnose COVID-19?

This test should NOT be used to diagnose COVID-19 infection. An antibody test is done with a blood sample. A positive antibody indicates you were probably infected with COVID-19, but it doesn’t tell when. You should not consider yourself protected from the virus.

Who Should Get Tested

How do I know if I should get tested?

Anyone can get tested for COVID-19. In particular, DHEC recommends the following three types of individuals get tested to curb the spread. 

  1. You have symptoms—if you're experiencing COVID-19, separate from others and get tested as soon as possible.
  2. You've been in close contact—if you've been within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes with someone who has COVID-19, get tested even if you dont have symptoms. This includes children, too.
  3. You're out and about in the community—the more you're out and about, the more likely you are to come into contact with people who have the virus and don't know it or show it. If you have a public-facing job or you're regularly socializing with others outside your household, get tested once a month.
If I don't have symptoms, can I get tested?

Yes, anyone can get tested for COVID-19. In particular, DHEC testing sites provide tests for anyone—no referral is required. Be sure to check the testing requirements at each testing location because some require referrals.

If I've been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, when should I get tested? 

You should be tested immediately after finding out you were a close contact with someone with COVID-19, and you may also be tested again 5-7 days after the last contact with the person who has COVID-19 (this is usually about 5-7 days into the quarantine period). If you do not get tested you must remain in quarantine for 10 days.

If I've been fully vaccinated, do I need to get tested if I've been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19?

Unless you have symptoms, you do not need to get tested for COVID-19. Keep in mind, fully vaccinated means two weeks after your shot in a single-dose series and after your second shot in a 2-dose series. 

However, if you live in a group setting—like a correctional facility or group home—you should stay away from others for 14 days and get tested if you've been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Do children need to get tested?

Testing children is also important, especially if they have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Children may not have fever or other signs of illness yet be able to spread the virus. Your child’s provider might also test for other common illnesses, such as flu or strep throat. Testing is key to keeping you, your child, and your community safe.

After You've Been Tested

What should I do while I wait for my results?

Isolate yourself away from other people while you wait for your results to avoid spreading the virus. Even if you don’t have symptoms you can still infect others if you are sick.

Practice healthy habits:

  • Cover your cough, or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces regularly, including your phone.

Monitor your symptoms:

  • Check your temperature twice a day.
  • Keep a journal of fever, cough and other respiratory symptoms.
  • If your symptoms get worse, seek medical care.

If you must leave home, such as to seek medical care, wear a protective face covering and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

If I've tested negative for COVID-19, do I still need to quarantine?

If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, stay in quarantine for the full quarantine period of 7 days even if you test negative for COVID-19.

If you have not been in close contact test negative for COVID-19, you do not have to isolate but should continue practicing physical distancing and wearing a mask while in public settings to prevent exposure in the future.

I've tested positive for COVID-19, how long should I quarantine?

Continue to self-isolate at home, limiting contact with anyone in your home until you meet these three criteria:

  1. At least 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared (or 10 days have passed since you were tested if you never have symptoms) AND
  2. You have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medicines such as Tylenol or ibuprofen AND
  3. Your respiratory symptoms such as cough have improved

Seek medical care if your symptoms worsen. Go to the emergency room for serious symptoms, including persistent chest pain, difficulty breathing, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake or bluish lips or face.

Anyone who was a close contact with you beginning up to two (2) days before you had the test will need to quarantine for 7-10 days after the last contact with you. 

There is no need to repeat the test. Because the test may remain positive for weeks even after you’re not contagious, repeat testing to end isolation to return to school or work is NOT recommended.

Get more details about quarantine

If I've tested positive for COVID-19, do I need to get tested again?

If you have had a positive test, you do not need another test for 3 months after the test date or when symptoms began.

Why is getting tested important?

While many people with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, it's still possible that they could be infected to pass the disease on. Meanwhile, others don't know that they've been in close contact with an infected person (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes). That's why DHEC is offering free community testing events that are open to anyone who would like to be tested.

Find a Testing Location

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Questions about COVID-19 testing? DHEC has the answers. Check out their testing guide at https://www.stayscstrong.com/testing-guide for answers to the latest questions on COVID testing. 

"" "" "" "" "" COVID FAQ: If I'm fully vaccinated, do I need to get tested after exposure to COVID-19? COVID FAQ: If I'm fully vaccinated, do I need to get tested after exposure to COVID-19? Once you're vaccinated, you no longer need to get tested after close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, UNLESS you have symptoms or live in a group residential setting. Unvaccinated people should continue to get tested if they suspect exposure to COVID-19.

Testing is for Everyone

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