According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. is now in the initiation phase of the pandemic of a disease spreading from person-to-person caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19. This is based on The Pandemic Intervals Framework (PIF), which describes the progression of an influenza pandemic in six intervals or phases.
The duration of each phase might vary depending on the type of virus and the public health response. Different parts of the country are seeing different levels of COVID-19 activity. Nationally, the U.S. is currently in the initiation phase, but states where community spread is occurring are in the acceleration phase. This would include South Carolina. This means there is a need for a transition from individual contact investigation to prioritized investigations to those at high risk and community focused.
As the lead public health agency in South Carolina, DHEC’s primary priorities remain preventing the spread of the disease and protecting the public health. This includes working to control spread and sharing measures that best protect our neighbors, friends, and family.
The CDC has stated that this situation poses a serious public health risk. DHEC is working closely with federal, state, local partners to respond to this ongoing public health event.
What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.
What are the Symptoms?
COVID-19 can cause mild to severe illness; most severe illness occurs in older adults. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
If you have fever, cough, shortness of breath, or any of the other symptoms listed above, please call your healthcare provider. Also, for a free online health assessment, please see our listing of telehealth virtual care providers in South Carolina.
You can also use Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coronavirus Self-Checker to help you make decisions and see appropriate medical care.
There is widespread, ongoing transmission of novel coronavirus worldwide. If you have traveled internationally in the past 14 days, stay home and monitor your health.
How does it spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. For more information about spread, click here.
Who is at Risk?
The CDC has stated that this situation poses a serious public health risk. We continue to learn more about COVID-19 as this outbreak progresses. One of the key things we have learned about this virus is that older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. For more information, click here.
How can You Protect Yourself and Your Family?
Realizing that spread is occurring, we encourage the public to focus on things that each of us can do to limit the spread of illness. This includes washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough. You can also:
- Stay at least 6 feet away from people who aren't in your household.
- Wear a face covering in public when it's hard to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others.
- Avoid large groups of people, if you can help it.
- Stay home if you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
- 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.
- Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow.
Those who are charged with caring for a family member, friend, or neighbor who is at greater risk for becoming ill are asked to follow information provided by CDC and DHEC to safely provide this care at home. If you are caring for yourself at home, click here.
How CDC and DHEC are working together
CDC has been proactively preparing for the introduction of COVID-19 in the U.S. for weeks, including alerting clinicians about how to detect, report and diagnose COVID-19 and prevent spread and providing guidance for travelers.
As the state’s lead public health agency, DHEC is taking proactive steps to be prepared for potential cases in South Carolina, including remaining updated on and following the latest CDC recommendations related to surveillance, evaluation, and response.
DHEC Response Activities
As the state’s lead public health agency, DHEC is taking proactive steps to be prepared for more cases in South Carolina, including remaining updated on and following the latest CDC recommendations related to surveillance, evaluation, and response. Disease control staff are monitoring CDC developments and guidance. Recent highlights include:
- Briefed the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control on April 9, 2020.
- DHEC has developed tools for the investigation of suspect and confirmed COVID-19 cases and has provided training to the epidemiology investigation staff in the four public health regions across the state to investigate and report cases.
- DHEC has developed a webpage, scdhec.gov/COVID19, to provide information and other resources about COVID-19 for the public.
- DHEC continues to communicate information to hospitals, laboratories and infection preventionists and physicians to keep them informed about how to identify and report possible cases requiring further follow-up.
- DHEC has developed guidance for developing plans for the indigent population that would require quarantine or isolation in individual counties was released on April 4. There is funding allocated for each county primarily based on population to be used to execute the plan.
- Briefed the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control on April. 9, 2020.
- On Monday, April 6, 2020, the Governor issued a "Home or Work" order.
- DHEC continues to release counts of confirmed and estimated cases by COVID-19 cases by ZIP code. These estimated counts represent those who are potentially undiagnosed. By including estimates, the agency hopes to better convey more meaningful information about the risk of disease spread in our community.
- DHEC continues to issue Health Alerts to provide healthcare professionals with the latest updates and interim guidance on the Outbreak of COVID-19.
- DHEC continues to provide daily updates to the media.
- Joined Governor McMaster on March 2, 2020, to convene the Public Health Emergency Plan Committee to discuss the potential impact of COVID-19 to South Carolinians.
- Held a teleconference for South Carolina university and college PIOs on Feb. 14, 2020.
- Briefed the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control on Feb. 13, 2020.
- Provided an update for hospital executives at the South Carolina Hospital Association on Feb. 5, 2020.
- With Governor McMaster, convened a meeting with the Public Health Emergency Plan Committee to discuss updates on the virus on Jan. 31, 2020.
- Held a teleconference for hospital public information officers (PIOs) on Jan. 31, 2020.
- Held an informational briefing for legislators and reporters on COVID-19 preparations in South Carolina on Jan. 29, 2020.
The agency continues to connect with schools, businesses, state agencies, at-risk groups and others in order to respond to COVID-19.
This is a rapidly evolving situation and DHEC will provide updated information as it becomes available. We will continue to provide updates on this website.