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What Exactly Does ‘Self Quarantine’ Mean and When Should You Do It?

Posted by Frank Herold on August 17, 2020



Self-quarantine, self-isolation, physical and social distancing—the virus came with a range of new vocabulary. While these terms often get interchanged, they actually have distinct meanings, and there are specific times when they should apply to you. Let's take a closer look at what it means to self-quarantine.

Related Blog: Social Distancing Tips for Seniors in Venice, Florida


What's the Difference Between Self-Quarantine and Self-Isolation?

The Department of Health and Human Services makes a clear distinction between the two: 

"Isolate if you are sick. Quarantine if you might be sick."

Interestingly, these are both legal terms that can be federally enforced. However, that is rarely put into practice. The terms self-isolation and self-quarantine indicate voluntary (and highly-recommended) actions to help control the spread of disease. 

If you test positive for COVID-19, you go into self-isolation to avoid getting others sick. A self-quarantine, though similar in practice, is for when you might have been in contact with an infected person. 


Who Needs to Self-Quarantine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, "Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19" should self-quarantine. Close contact includes:

  • Spending 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone.
  • Providing care or personal assistance.
  • Hugging, touching, or kissing.
  • Sharing eating utensils or drinking from the same glass.
  • Being coughed on or sneezed on.

The CDC says self-quarantine should last 14 days from the time of your last contact with the infected person, because it can take that long for symptoms to show. 

During this time, you should carefully monitor your health, stay away from others (even other people in your household), and, if necessary, communicate with your doctor or local health officials via phone. 

If possible, quarantine yourself in a separate room in the house. Make sure the entire household is regularly disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and shared areas, like the bathroom. If you live alone, utilize a grocery delivery service and have them leave the items in front of your door to avoid contact. 


Where Does Social Distancing Come In?

The terms social distancing and physical distancing are often used interchangeably, but there's a difference here, too. Social distancing was employed at the beginning of the pandemic: people were encouraged to stay home to avoid spreading the virus. 

Physical distancing is more applicable now that businesses are reopening and people are getting outside. Physical distancing is about wearing a mask and keeping at least six feet of space between you and other people. 

Staying at home for a video conference with co-workers or FaceTiming with your parents are examples of social distancing; two mask-wearing friends meeting at a park but sitting on benches on either side of a wide walkway is an example of physical distancing.

Both continue to be recommended. Social distance as much as you can, and use physical distancing practices when it's not possible to stay home.

While isolation and quarantine are for those who are or might be sick, social and physical distancing are for everyone. Healthy people can take steps to avoid getting sick by avoiding contact with others as much as possible; this also helps prevent the spread of disease by those who don't realize they're sick or that they've been in contact with an infected person.

At Jacaranda Trace, we're committed to staying up-to-date on COVID-19 developments and protecting our residents and staff. If you have any questions about self-quarantine, physical distancing, or life in our community, please contact us


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