Who needs to isolate or quarantine?

Lake Regional Health System
Kayla Wood, R.N., infection preventionist at Lake Regional.

Who needs to isolate or quarantine? And for how long?

“When you have COVID-19, or you've been exposed to it, one of the best things you can do for your community and loved ones is to stay away from others,” said Kayla Wood, R.N., infection preventionist at Lake Regional. “Stopping the spread from known exposures is key to containing the virus.”

Isolation is for people who have COVID-19. Quarantine is for people who may have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Your doctor should be your first source for advice on how to isolate or quarantine. In general, here's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends.


The purpose of isolation is to keep others from getting sick. According to the CDC, you should isolate if you:

• Have symptoms of COVID-19 and can recover at home. Symptoms may include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell.

• Have no symptoms but tested positive for the virus.

How long do I need to isolate?

According to CDC, if you have symptoms, isolation should last until you meet all of the following criteria:

• It's been at least 10 days since your symptoms started.

• You've been fever-free for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medicine.

• Your other symptoms are improving.

If you tested positive but have no symptoms, isolation should continue until 10 days after your positive test.

“Some people may have to isolate for longer,” Wood said. “For instance, if you were seriously ill with COVID-19, had to be hospitalized or have a weak immune system, your doctor might suggest that you isolate for to up to 20 days.”

If you have new symptoms after you recover, it could be a new infection. You may need to start isolation again. Follow your doctor's advice.


The purpose of quarantine is to protect others while waiting to see if you become sick following exposure to a close contact. According to the CDC, “close contact” means any of the following:

• You were within 6 feet of them for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

• You had direct contact (like hugging or kissing).

• You shared eating or drinking utensils.

• They sneezed, coughed or somehow got respiratory droplets on you.

How long do I need to quarantine?

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear, according to CDC. So quarantine should last for 14 days from the last date you had close contact with a person who has COVID-19.

If you are living with someone who has COVID-19 and can't avoid them, you should quarantine while they are sick and for 14 days after they end isolation.

According to the CDC, if you're in quarantine, you should stay home, keep an eye out for symptoms and, if possible, separate yourself from others in the household — even if you've tested negative or feel fine.

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