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COVID-19: Isolation and Quarantine Update Q&A

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Author name: Lee Health

Posted:

COVID-19 update graphic

In December, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance policy for COVID-19 prevention for the general public. The agency shortened its recommended isolation and quarantine period, among its updates.

Lee Health infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephanie Stovall, Chief Clinical Officer of Quality/Safety and Hospital-Based Care, answers our questions about the revised guidelines of COVID-19 isolation and quarantine:

Q: How is isolation different from quarantine?

A: Isolation is staying away from people when you are sick with COVID-19 or staying away if you have tested positive COVID-19 even though you might not have symptoms.

Quarantine is used to prevent transmission of the virus by ensuring that certain people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 stay apart from others. If people have symptoms and/or have a positive viral test for COVID-19 while in quarantine, they should immediately begin the process for isolation. Quarantine’s important because even before a person has tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms, they could unknowingly spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. 

Q: Who needs to isolate?

A: Anyone who has a positive viral test for COVID-19, whether they have symptoms or not. Also, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, including anyone who is awaiting test results or who has not been tested. People with symptoms should isolate even if they don’t know if they’ve been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.

Q: How long should someone with COVID-19 isolate?

A: All people with COVID-19 should undergo isolation for at least 5 full days. Day 0 is the day symptoms began or the day of the positive viral test (for people with no COVID-19 symptoms).

Q: When can a person end their isolation and be around others after being diagnosed with COVID-19?

A: This question has two answers, based on CDC recommendations that address exposure and symptoms.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and never develops symptoms should isolate for at least 5 days. Day 0 is the day of the positive viral test (based on the date of testing) and day 1 is the first full day after the specimen was collected for the positive test.

If they continue to have no symptoms, they can end isolation after at least 5 days. They should continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public until day 10 (day 6 through day 10). If they are unable to wear a mask when around others, they should continue to isolate for 10 days.

For additional information, visit the CDC guidelines.

Anyone who has COVID-19 and has or had symptoms should isolate for at least 5 days. To calculate the 5-day isolation period, day 0 is the first day of symptoms. Day 1 is the first full day after their symptoms developed. They can end isolation after 5 full days if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved (loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation​).

They should continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public for 5 additional days (day 6 through day 10) after the end of their 5-day isolation period. If they are unable to wear a mask when around others, they should continue to isolate for 10 days.

For additional information, visit the CDC guidelines.

Q: What should someone do during isolation?

A: If you’ve been asked to isolate because you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you should:

  • Stay home and refrain from extra-curricular activities, including community events, social gatherings, etc. that take place with anyone who is not in their household.
  • Monitor their symptoms. If they develop an emergency warning sign seek emergency medical care immediately. Emergency warning signs include trouble breathing; persistent pain or pressure in the chest; new confusion; the inability to wake up or stay awake; and pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds (depending on skin tone).
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in the area of the home where they are isolating.
  • Avoid contact with other members of the household and pets by staying in a separate room and using a separate bathroom if possible.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
  • Wear a mask when around other people, including around others in the household.
  • CDC provides more information about what to do during isolation on its website

Q: Should we continue wearing masks?

A: The CDC continues to recommend masking for all individuals age 2 years and older, regardless of vaccination status.

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