How to Self-Quarantine for Coronavirus

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man in quarantine, enjoying outside time on his computer; How to Self-Quarantine for Coronavirus

Depending on the risks you take, there’s a chance you could spend time with someone who has contracted coronavirus. Whether through work, school or family events, a high-risk exposure means it’s best to do a 14-day self-quarantine period. Once in quarantine, you might have a few questions. Dr. Rossana Rosa, infectious disease specialist with UnityPoint Health, has answers.

What is Self-Quarantine?

“Quarantine is the separation and restriction of movement of people who have been exposed to an infectious disease, like COVID-19, in order to see if they develop any symptoms,” Dr. Rosa says.

For example, your child is attending school in-person, and a teacher or another student is diagnosed with coronavirus and your child may have been exposed to the virus. You might be advised it’s best for the student and/or his/her household to quarantine.

The CDC has additional quarantine guidelines to follow if someone in your household goes on to test positive for coronavirus.

What is a High-Risk Exposure?

“A high-risk exposure means you’ve spent a total of 15 minutes or more within close contact (six feet or less) of a person who was subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19,” Dr. Rosa says.

How Long to Self-Quarantine

Dr. Rosas says even if you feel healthy, you should stay in quarantine for 14 days.

When Are Symptoms of COVID-19 Most Likely to Show?

"After someone has been exposed to COVID-19, the virus usually takes anywhere from 2-14 days from the date of exposure to develop an infection—with symptoms frequently developing within five days. That infection can be symptomatic or asymptomatic," Dr. Rosa says.

Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell or other coronavirus symptoms. If you notice any of these, contact your doctor for further guidance.

“Up to 20 percent of people can go on to have asymptomatic infections. That means they never develop symptoms, even though they can still transmit the infection to other people,” Dr. Rosa says.

Can I Get a COVID-19 Test and Discontinue My Quarantine?

If you’re in quarantine and want to get tested to resume normal life, it’s best to hang tight. 

“As of now, no, you really can’t do that. If you get tested on day seven or eight, you can still develop the coronavirus infection. If your test says you are negative, you are negative that day – not necessarily for the entire 14-day period,” Dr. Rosa says. 

“There is some technology in development to test at home using strips sort of like pregnancy tests, but those aren’t widely available right now,” she adds.

Overall, if you’ve had a high-risk exposure, it’s best to stay at home and quarantine for the whole 14 days without relying on a test to determine if you will or won’t get sick.

How to Quarantine at Home?

You can do anything outdoors that doesn’t bring you in close contact with other people. For example, if you’re feeling well, consider taking a walk when people aren’t usually using the sidewalks or paths. 

If you need to run an errand, choose drive through or pick up, if it’s available. 

Dr. Rosa says, “I would add one extra layer of protection and open up the trunk of your vehicle to maintain physical distance and minimize any type of exposure to other people. Do this instead of having them put items in the seat next to you.”