WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN QUARANTINE AND ISOLATION? HOW LONG DOES SOMEONE NEED TO STAY IN ISOLATION OR QUARANTINE, AND WHAT DO THESE LOOK LIKE IN PRACTICE?
Quarantine is for those who have been exposed to COVID-19 and isolation is for people who are known cases; both are intended to limit transmission of the virus. Those who are close contacts of someone who tested positive must quarantine for 14 days since their most recent exposure and should only end quarantine if they remain symptom free throughout this time. Someone in quarantine should get tested 5-7 days after their exposure or anytime they develop symptoms. Students who test positive should look out for a call from the health department (please be receptive – they are trying to help get this situation under control!) and isolate for at least 10 days since either their symptom onset or test, whichever is longer. Someone can come out of isolation after 10 days if and only if they have also been fever free for >24 hours and have seen an improvement in symptoms.
Someone who is quarantining should stay home and limit interaction with others within the home by social distancing and wearing masks. It is important to social distance even if you are wearing a mask, as masks do
not provide perfect protection. These methods to prevent transmission should always be used together. Those who are in isolation should ideally stay in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom than other
members of a household. It will be important to care for mental health during this time.
2 days prior to symptom onset and through the end of the isolation period. Because people can be contagious before symptoms start (or never develop symptoms), it is not enough for someone to say they “feel fine.” Be assertive of your boundaries and the expectations you have for safety when socializing.
If I have been identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive, can I finish quarantine early if I test negative?
No. The viral incubation period for COVID-19 is 2-14 days, which means that it can take as long as 2 weeks for enough virus to develop in an exposed person’s system to be detected by a test. Additionally, PCR and antigen tests serve as a “snapshot in time” and are not predictive of whether someone will develop disease in the future. Therefore, it is essential that you continue quarantining. If you experience any new symptoms or see changes in baseline symptoms, you should get re-tested.