Quarantine During Coronavirus Pandemic

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on January 04, 2023

Having four FDA-approved vaccinations jas helped to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and some parts of everyday life have become more normalized. If you’re not fully vaccinated, one of the best ways to slow or stop the pandemic is to continue to limit contact with people who are sick. Social distancing, quarantine, and isolation all are types of separation.

Social distancing is when everyone, including those who don’t have symptoms, keeps 6 feet away from each other to lower the chances of spreading the virus. Isolation is when someone who is sick or who suspects they may have coronavirus segregates themselves while they recover.

Quarantine is a way to separate and to restrict movements of someone who may have been exposed to the virus to check if they become sick.

During an outbreak of a highly contagious disease, public health recommendations can change from day to day. If you come in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, here’s what the CDC guidelines state:

A close contact is someone who:

  • Lives in your house
  • Is your intimate partner
  • Takes care of you or is cared for by you

You should quarantine if:

  • If you have been boosted or completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months or completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months then wear a mask around others for 10 days.
    Test on day 5, if possible. If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home
  • If you completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted
    or completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and are not boosted or are unvaccinated, then stay home for 5 days. After that continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days. If you can’t quarantine you must wear a mask for 10 days. Test on day 5 if possible. If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home
  • If you test positive, stay home for at least 5 days. Don’t travel during this time and wear a well-fitted mask if you must be around others. After 5 days, you can stop isolating if you no longer have symptoms and you are fever-free for at least 24 hours. But if your symptoms don’t improve, you’ll have to continue quarantine for a little longer.

Usually, any symptoms of COVID-19 appear within 2-14 days after exposure or infection. But some people who get this coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, may not have any symptoms. 

During your quarantine you should:

  • Stay home unless you absolutely must leave, such as for essential medical appointments
  • Separate yourself from other household members and pets
  • Use a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible
  • Not share utensils, dishes, cups/glasses, bedding, towels, and other personal items
  • Wear a mask if you can't separate yourself

You also should follow the same hygiene habits that the CDC recommends for everyone during a disease outbreak:

  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your area daily, including phones, remote controls, countertops, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom handles, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables
  • Wash your hands well with soap often, including after coughing, sneezing, using the bathroom, and before and after eating

During your self-quarantine, monitor your symptoms. Watch for a fever of 100.4 F or greater.  Be on the lookout for other signs of coronavirus infection, such as dry cough and shortness of breath.

If you notice symptoms, follow the CDC’s guidelines for isolation. 

You will most likely get better on your own, but if you need medical help, call your doctor first. If you feel you need to go to a clinic, call ahead and ask how you should arrive. You should wear a fitted face mask and use a separate entrance.

If someone in your household has COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you:

  • Clean and disinfect countertops and other touched surfaces often
  • Wash and disinfect your hands often, including after you’ve been near someone who is sick
  • Keep your hands away from your face
  • Wear a face mask if you can't separate yourself


Show Sources


Johns Hopkins Health: “Coronavirus, Social Distancing and Self-Quarantine.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?”

Houston Methodist: “Coronavirus and Self-Quarantining: Who Should Do It and How to Do It.”

CDC: “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): What to do if you’re sick,” “Recommended precautions for household members, intimate partners, and caregivers in a nonhealthcare setting of A patient with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 OR A patient under investigation,” “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Caring for yourself at home – 10 things you can do to manage your health at home,” “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): FAQ for Healthcare Professionals,” “CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period for General Population.” “Quarantine and Isolation.”

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