The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental has updated its interim guidance on testing and isolation requirements following testing.
The update was made after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s September 18, 2020, update of guidance on testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including for those without symptoms of COVID-19.
“We continue to learn more about how COVID-19 affects South Carolina communities as it spreads across our state,” said Dr. Michael Kacka, DHEC physician and Chief Medical Officer. “It is critical to update guidance based on the latest information from the CDC and what is going on in our local communities to reduce spread and keep residents safe.”
Here are some key elements included in DHEC’s updated interim guidance:
Because there is a chance SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can be spread before symptoms appear or even when there are no symptoms, it is important for persons with symptoms AND those who are close contacts to people with COVID-19 to be tested because they are more likely to be infected with the virus. This is considered diagnostic testing.
It is also important to conduct screening of persons who are simply out and about in the community. If they have no symptoms or known close contact, they are less likely to be infected with the virus than persons with symptoms or known close contact but they still are at risk. This is why community screening is important.
DHEC recommends diagnostic testing as needed and screening testing at least monthly for most people in the community, particularly those who spend time around others. This should be a test that directly detects the virus through a sample of saliva or a swab of the nose or throat. Testing for antibodies in the blood is not recommended for this purpose.
Those who test positive do not need additional testing within the three months following the time symptoms began or when the sample was collected for testing. Repeat testing to end isolation or return to work or school is NOT recommended.
It is possible to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, feel well without symptoms, and yet be able to spread it. Recommendations regarding isolation and quarantine after testing vary depending on whether testing was done in response to symptoms or for screening purposes. Self-isolating at home after a screening test is not necessary for those without symptoms and not known to be a close contact to a case. However, they should continue preventive actions such as wearing a mask and avoid close contact with others until their test results are received. If the results are positive, the individual tested must complete isolation requirements and any close contacts identified beginning 48 hours before testing specimen was collected should be recommended to quarantine.
Those who are tested because they have symptoms of COVID-19 or believed to be at greater risk of being infected must self-isolate until their test results come back. They may stop self-isolating if negative but if positive must complete the recommended isolation period until no longer considered contagious. Those who are close contacts to someone with COVID-19 should be tested but must complete their full recommended quarantine period even if they test negative.
Children may have mild symptoms or none at all yet can transmit SARS-CoV-2. Testing children who are close contacts or who have symptoms is critical to prevent spread.
The need for testing, when to test, and when to isolate or quarantine depends on symptoms, timing of the test and whether there has been a known exposure to a COVID-19 case.
Visit the DHEC website for more information on these updated guidelines.