Isolation and Quarantine

What does isolation mean?

Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

What does quarantine mean?

Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed, in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the span of time during which people have developed illness after exposure. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period. 

What is the length of time people need to be in isolation or quarantine for COVID-19?

The below recommendations will prevent most but may not prevent all instances of secondary spread. You are less likely to transmit COVID-19 after recovery than during illness. 

For Persons with COVID-19 Under Home Isolation 

Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue home isolation under the following conditions: 

  • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications AND improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); AND, 
  • At least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.  

For example, if day 0 is the onset of illness, persons with COVID-19 without a fever and have no respiratory symptoms as of day 3 must remain isolated until day 7. Someone with COVID-19 who still has a fever or respiratory symptoms until day 10 cannot be released until day 13. 

For Household Contacts of Persons with COVID-19 

Because exposure is considered to be ongoing within the house, household contacts of persons with COVID-19 must be quarantined for 14 days after the case has been released from isolation. This means that household contacts will need to remain at home longer than the initial case. 

For Non-Household Contacts of Persons with COVID-19

People who had close contact* with a person with COVID-19 must be quarantined for 14 days from the date of last contact with the person with COVID-19. If someone had close contact* with a COVID-19 case prior to the case becoming symptomatic, there was no exposure and no quarantine is necessary. 

* Close contact is defined as: 

a) being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case 

– OR – 

b) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on) 

What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. 

A good example of the difference between isolation and quarantine is what happened on the Grand Princess cruise ship. When one passenger became sick, they were told to stay in their cabins and keep as far away from other passengers as possible. That’s isolation. However, as more passengers became sick and the virus started to spread, the ship was told to stay offshore and not allowed into port to protect healthy people in California from coming in contact with the exposed passengers on the ship. That’s quarantine. 

ISOLATION and QUARANTINE

Should I self-isolate if I think I am sick?  

Montgomery County recommends that you voluntarily self-isolate if you feel sick.   

Can someone who has been released from quarantine for COVID-19 spread the illness to others? 

Typically, someone who has been asked to quarantine is monitored for signs and symptoms of a disease to develop. A person who has been released from quarantine is generally not considered a risk for the spreading the virus because they have not developed the illness during the incubation period. 

If I’m quarantined what protocol does my family have to follow?  

It may take between 2-14 days after exposure for the symptoms of COVID-19 to appear.  

  1. Take your temperature once daily.  

  1. Watch for other symptoms of Coronavirus (including fever which is a body temperature of 100.40F/38C or higher, cough, shortness of breath).  

  1. Immediately report any of these symptoms to the Montgomery County Office of Public Health (OPH) at 610-278-5117 if they develop.  

  1. Do not travel or leave the place to which you have been quarantined or isolated.  

  1. Cooperate with the monitoring and other visits of the OPH or its representatives.  


OTHER IMPORTANT FAQs

Exposure and Spread of Virus
Prevention and Vaccine
Protection
Symptoms
Testing