People who think they may have been exposed to someone infected with the new, previously unknown strain of coronavirus called COVID-19 are being asked to “self-quarantine.” Due to the way the respiratory illness spreads – in close person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes – quarantines are being recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here are some things you should know about self-quarantines: What Is a Quarantine: Self-quarantine is a way to minimize interactions for a potentially infected individual. It does not mean that person necessarily has the virus. Quarantines can be mandated or taken voluntarily. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has mandated quarantines for people who have recently traveled to areas under the CDC’s Level 3 and Level 4 threat warnings. Voluntary quarantines are for people who choose to take them if they suspect they may have interacted with an individual who has the virus. The quarantine period for COVID-19 lasts 14 days. During a quarantine, the individual self-assesses their health to see if any flu-like symptoms develop. If symptoms do arise, the individual should discuss next steps with their doctor. The individual is still allowed to watch television, read and play single-player board and card games in their own home, but must avoid the public whenever possible. What Quarantine Is Not: Quarantine is not isolation. Isolation is for people with confirmed cases of COVID-19. These individuals are restricted from any interaction or contact with other people. Quarantine is not social distancing. Social distancing varies based on context, but typically involves avoiding highly crowded areas, such as conferences or public events. It also means maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others when possible. With social distancing, the individual still goes into public spaces, but tries to avoid especially populated places. Tips for Self-Quarantine: If you have been ordered or opted to self-quarantine, here are some tips you should follow.
- If you can have your own space completely (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen), the CDC recommends doing so. This will make it easier to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. If you can’t, you do not have to move out. Your roommates or family can live in the same space as you. You simply need to be cautious around others. Keep your distance when possible.
- Do not share utensils, dishes, towels, clothes or bedding with others throughout the quarantine period, even if you don’t currently have any symptoms.
- Do not have unnecessary visitors.
- Stock up on groceries that you may need for the two-week period. They do not need to be non-perishable items because there has been no evidence to suggest that the coronavirus will result in a loss of power or water. If you have access to a grocery delivery service, consider using it and asking that the groceries be left at your front door to minimize contact with others.
- Disinfect often. Every time you touch a surface, you could be transmitting the disease to someone else. Be especially mindful of surfaces you touch frequently - your phone, your TV remote, doorknobs and light switches, to name a few. Do a complete cleanse at the end of each day. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a list of commercial products that qualify for use against the new coronavirus.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of tissues in a lined trashcan immediately. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid leaving your home for any reason. If you must leave, wear a face mask and try to touch as few surface areas as possible. Make every effort to avoid public transportation and taxis. If you need to go to the doctor, consider using telehealth services, which can allow you to have an appointment without leaving your home. If you are going into the doctor's office, you must call the office ahead of time and notify them of your symptoms.
- The CDC advises people in quarantine not to interact with any animals because there haven’t been any studies done to know whether the virus can be transmitted through them. If it is impossible to avoid them, wear a mask and wash your hands before and after interacting with them.
The decision to end the quarantine period is made on a case-by-case basis and should always be discussed with a doctor before returning to normal routines. Additionally, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has decided to cover the cost of coronavirus testing for all of its members in fully-insured health plans when done according to CDC requirements. Related content:
- Coronavirus Outbreak: What You Need to Know
- How to Access Telehealth Care During the Coronavirus Outbreak
- Strategies to Manage Your Coronavirus Stress and Anxiety
Photo credit: Kristen Prahl