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Press Release

DHEC and SCHA Offer Guidance for Seeking COVID-19 Testing and Treatment

December 31, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. ― As COVID-19 cases reach record levels in South Carolina, hospitals and doctors’ offices are once again being overwhelmed by patients with COVID-19, the flu, and other illnesses or injuries.

To ease the burden on our state’s healthcare systems and dedicated medical professionals, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) remind residents that most COVID-positive individuals with mild to moderate symptoms can safely recover at home without emergency medical attention, and anyone needing a COVID-19 test should visit a testing site or pharmacy instead of an emergency room.

More than 14,500 South Carolinians have died due to COVID-19, however, most individuals who contract COVID-19 experience minor illness and do not need to visit an emergency department or a doctor’s office.

“The COVID-19 virus and its variants affect people’s health to varying degrees, causing death and severe illness in some people while others who contract the virus have mild or no symptoms,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “For those fortunate enough to have mild or moderate symptoms, you can help ease the burden on our state’s medical professionals by treating your illness at home like you would for the flu or a cold. Because COVID-19 has taken so many lives and put so many people in hospitals, we need to ensure our state’s medical resources – which are overworked and stretched thin – are open and available to the people who will become gravely ill from this evolving virus or have other medical emergencies.”

General guidance for when to recover at home and when to seek emergency medical care include:

  • Call 911 or visit an emergency department: someone having difficulty breathing, intense chest pain, unexpected extreme weakness or disorientation, or a severe allergic reaction.
  • Do not call 911 or visit an emergency department: someone with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, including a cough, sore throat, runny nose, or body aches. Instead, follow isolation protocols and treat your symptoms at home with over-the-counter medication following label instructions or call your primary care physician.
  • Do not call 911 or visit an emergency department: to get tested or receive a vaccine. Instead, use DHEC’s testing locator map and vaccine locator map to find a site near you.

“We continue to receive reports from hospitals across South Carolina that their emergency rooms are already overrun with individuals seeking COVID testing and with milder COVID symptoms that do not require hospitalization,” said Melanie Matney, System Chief Operating Officer of SCHA. “As we again see the number of COVID cases rise significantly with the omicron variant and holiday gatherings, it is critical that we maintain availability for the more severe cases that require hospitalization. Any South Carolinian that believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 can access an at-home COVID test from their local pharmacy or visit one of the test sites set up across the state. If you have tested positive, and your symptoms remain mild, we ask that you follow the guidance of your primary care provider to monitor your symptoms unless you require hospitalization, and continue to stay home if you are sick, wear a mask if you go out, and wash your hands often, no matter if you’re sick with flu, covid, or any other illness.”

While most cases of COVID-19 are not severe, anyone who has tested positive for the virus – whether they develop illness or not – can spread the virus to others, including high-risk individuals who could die or need hospitalization. Getting fully vaccinated and receiving your booster shot if eligible, wearing masks, getting tested when needed, and physical distancing are the most effective methods for ending the pandemic.

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When to Call 911 (or go to an ER) flyer

Media Contact:

DHEC Media Relations