The new coronavirus is a rapidly spreading disease for which we have no natural immunity. While there are vaccines available, it is unclear how long it will take for them to be readily available to the public. One of the best ways to slow or stop the pandemic is to separate people. 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.
Who Should Quarantine?
During an outbreak of a highly contagious disease, public health recommendations can change from day to day. The CDC recommends self-quarantine if a close contact of yours has confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and if you’ve not taken recommended steps for home care and isolation.
A close contact is someone who:
- Lives in your house
- Is your intimate partner
- Takes care of you or is cared for by you
How to Self-Quarantine
Usually, any symptoms of COVID-19 appear within 2 days to 2 weeks after an exposure or infection. But many people who get this coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, don’t have any symptoms. So self-quarantine should last for 14 days to allow time to confirm, without testing, that you don’t have it or can't spread it to others.
The CDC acknowledges that 14 days of quarantining could be a financial hardship for some and for those, they recommend that people who have been exposed, but don't have symptoms can end::
- On day 10 without testing
- On day 7 after receiving a negative test result
During your quarintine 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. Take your temperature twice a day to check for a fever. 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. These are similar to a quarantine.
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 may need to wear a mask and use a separate entrance.
If you show no symptoms during your 14 days, you can resume your normal routine. Depending on the status of the outbreak at that time, social-distancing recommendations still might be in force.
Good Quarantine Practices
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