Coronavirus: What to do if you’re told to self-quarantine

The outbreak of a novel coronavirus, called COVID-19, that has sickened tens of thousands around the globe has prompted major businesses and organizations to pull out from industry gatherings and events, and implement remote work policies for employees located in regions of outbreak.

As the virus continues to spread, including inside the United States, people in several states are being asked by health officials to isolate themselves if they’re believed to have come into contact with a person infected with the coronavirus.

The CDC offers a chart regarding the risk level one may be at of contracting COVID-19, based on factors such as if they’ve traveled from Hubei, China recently or if they have been in close contact with another individual outside of a health facility confirmed to have the virus. Here are the recommendations one should follow, depending on their appropriate risk level.

If you are instructed by health officials to isolate yourself or want to do so out of your own concern, the CDC offers a list of steps to take in order to maintain your own health while helping to prevent the spread of the virus to others.

  • Wear a face mask at home when around other people, pets, and before entering a health care facility. If a person cannot wear a face mask, the CDC recommends that others wear face masks when entering the infected or potentially sick individual’s room.  
  • Cover sneezes and coughs, and wash hands often. Vigorously washing one’s hands after sneezing and coughing, as well as throwing used tissues in a lined trash can, are suggested steps as well.  
  • Remaining cognizant of personal and “high-touch” items. Infected individuals or those at risk should not share personal items, such as drinking glasses, dishes, towels, or linens, with others in the home. Similarly, high-touch items, such as remote controls, doorknobs and light switches, should be cleaned regularly and efficiently.  
  • Monitor symptoms and contact health officials if condition worsens. Those who believe they need to seek further care should contact their health care provider prior to making an appointment and wear a face mask when entering a medical facility. In the event of medical emergencies, individuals should still call 911, but inform authorities that they have symptoms of, or are being evaluated for, the condition.  
  • Contact health officials to determine if self-isolation can end. While the CDC provides broader guidelines for who is at risk of the virus and what precautions should be taken, determining when home isolation can end should be made on a case-by-case basis. The guidance an individual receives from their health care providers and other health officials should be kept in mind when evaluating if an infected or at-risk person should return to work, school, or other activities.

The CDC also provides recommendations to those caring for individuals who are self-isolated in response to the virus. In addition to the above, these recommendations include restricting visitors from the home, making sure shared spaces have good air flow, avoiding touching the face with unwashed hands, and washing laundry thoroughly.

As remote and isolated working procedures have become more common, this has prompted many to wonder what they should do in the event they are at risk of becoming infected by the virus, and that the terms isolation and quarantine are not necessarily interchangeable.

The CDC notes that isolation is a process where sick people who have a contagious disease are separated from those who are not sick. For example, if a person who recently traveled to China or another affected area started showing COVID-19 symptoms, they may be recommended or instructed to isolate themselves at home as to not potentially infect others.

Quarantine, however, refers to the separation and restriction of a movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick, according to the CDC. For example, the cruise ship that was quarantined in February in Yokohoma, Japan. This was done to determine if individuals onboard had the virus, as well as to restrict their movement and the spread of the virus onshore.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.