What is quarantine?
Infectious diseases like COVID-19 can spread BEFORE you even have symptoms. Quarantine is a public health tool that helps keep people who were likely exposed to the virus and could be infectious, but who don’t have symptoms yet, away from others in the community – helping us to limit spreading the virus before we even know we’re sick.
Who should quarantine?
Individuals who had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should quarantine. Close contacts are typically other people who live in the home – spouse, children, or parents – with someone with COVID-19. Close contacts can also be a significant other, intimate partner, close friend or family member who a person with COVID-19 had close physical contact with (shared a hug, shared eating utensils, or sat close to one another). Think a friend who came over for dinner, a boyfriend/girlfriend, or a cousin the sick person frequently visits in-person. Close contacts can also be someone who works with, goes to school with, plays sports with, shares a car ride with, or attends church or bible study with someone with COVID-19. In these work, school, religious and social settings, close contacts are the people within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for 15+ minutes throughout the course of the day. It may not be everyone in the workplace, school, church, team, or gathering – but it is anyone who was within 6 feet of the ill person for 15+ minutes. When we assess whether we were within 6 feet of someone with COVID-19 for 15+ minutes throughout the day, we must look at the 2 days prior to when the person’s symptoms started (or if they have no symptoms – 2 days before a positive test specimen was collected) until about 10 days after their symptoms (or if they have no symptoms, 10 days after a positive test specimen was collected).
How long do I quarantine?
Close contacts (see definition above) should stay home (self-quarantine) for 14 days from their LAST contact with someone with COVID-19. If you were a close contact of a co-worker, friend, classmate, teammate, etc. (you do not live with the person who has COVID-19), you should stay home and begin self-quarantine as soon as you are notified of your possible exposure. Stay home for 14 days from the last interaction with the person. You can return to normal activities on the 15th day after your last contact with the person with COVID-19.
If you live with someone who has COVID-19, you will need to stay home and self-quarantine as soon as you are made aware. However, because the virus can take 2-14 days to develop an infection in your body (making you infectious to others), it is important that your 14-day self-quarantine period does not begin until the last person who develops COVID-19 has completed their infectious period (usually 10 days). We know this extended self-quarantine is very taxing on families, but is a crucial part of managing the virus’s impact on our community.
What about the CDC Shortened Quarantine Options?
The CDC continues to recommend a 14-day quarantine after known exposure to someone with COVID-19. This 14-day quarantine is the best option for reducing the risk for spreading COVID-19. Public health officials understand 14-days can be very difficult for some individuals. When a 14-day quarantine is not feasible, the Union County Health Department and the Ohio Department of Health are adopting CDC’s 10-day option for shortened quarantine.
The 10-day option allows an individual to resume daily activities after 10 days from last known exposure as long as the individual has NOT developed symptoms. The Union County Health Department encourages the exposed individual to be vigilant in continuing to symptom monitor, social distance, and wear a mask for an additional four days to provide additional protection for family, friends and our community.
The Union County Health Department is not currently recommending the CDC’s 7-day and negative test option for shortened quarantine. This 7-day and negative test strategy is currently not a practical nor an equitable strategy for our community.
- Test results often take 2-4 days or longer to return;
- Testing without symptoms is not covered by many insurance plans;
- We must continue to ensure wide access to testing for ill people. This is a critical step in identifying and isolating COVID-19 patients as quickly as possible – a critical tool to protect our community. We don’t yet know how testing to shorten quarantine may impact our local testing capacity. The supply chain for testing supplies and lab capacities are still sensitive to disruptions and thus we are cautious in implementing strategies that could increase demand and impact access to testing for ill individuals.
- For these reasons, the Union County Health Department is not currently recommending a 7-day and negative test option as a practical strategy for our community.
The Union County Health Department will continue to review all of the quarantine recommendations as new information or the situation in the community evolves.
It is also important to note, if you share a home with a person with COVID-19, quarantine of household contacts is a critical strategy for protecting our community. On-going exposure often linked with sharing a home with someone with COVID-19 increases the risk for household contacts to contract COVID-19. Therefore, it is important that members of the home quarantine as soon as possible and for at least 10-days after the LAST member of the household is released from their 10-day isolation. Only if contact with others in the home can be substantially reduced during the entire infectious period (either the ill person completely isolates in their own bedroom and bathroom with meals brought to their door on disposable dishes/utensils or the healthy members of the home can separate completely from the ill person), should the quarantine for household members without symptoms start concurrently with the ill person’s isolation.
Here are a few examples of a quarantine calendar:
I had close contact with a co-worker, classmate, friend or teammate who tests positive for COVID-19.
Someone who lives in my home tests positive for COVID-19 (spouse, child, parent). Example, mom tests positive. 3 days later dad tests positive. There are 2 children in the home who have no symptoms.
Can I test out of quarantine?
Testing right after learning you had exposure to someone with COVID-19, especially if you have no symptoms, may not give you a true picture of whether you have or will develop COVID-19. The virus that causes COVID-19 can grow in your body for 2-14 days before you develop symptoms. Because of this long incubation period, a negative test earlier in your self-quarantine only tells you that you do not have a current viral load that produces a positive result. It does not mean that you have not contracted the virus. It does not mean you won’t become infectious and capable of spreading the virus to others even before symptoms develop.
The CDC does provide a test based strategy for an alternative to shorten quarantine. This option is not currently recommended in our local community due to several factors (see quarantine duration section above). If an individual does opt for this option, the CDC indicates the negative test must be collected 5 or more days from last exposure to a person with COVID-19. In this instance, quarantine would last 7 days from last exposure with a negative PCR test on or after day 5 and no symptoms develop.
What should I do while I’m self-quarantining?
- Stay home. Do not go to work, school, grocery stores, restaurants, gatherings, extracurricular activities, or any other social or community places. If you have to get medicine, groceries or supplies, ask a friend or family member to deliver them to your porch. You can also call 2-1-1 or United Way of Union County to get connected to volunteers and resources that want to help you be successful. If you must, you could get curbside grocery or food – but you must wear your mask, and have the items placed in your trunk with no interaction with the worker.
- Monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. Take your temperature twice a day. Look for signs and symptoms of illness that develop from 2-14 days after contact with a person with COVID-19. Do not ignore symptoms, COVID-19 symptoms can be mild in some people. A runny nose, congestion, slight cough, or fatigue can be symptoms of COVID-19. Other symptoms include fever (measured at over 100.4°F or subjective feverish or chills), sore throat, headache, body or muscle aches, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, loss of taste or smell. If you develop significant shortness of breath or chest pains, please call 9-1-1 or your local emergency department and notify them of your exposure and symptoms.
- Try to keep 6 feet from others in your home and wear a mask when you are in common areas with other family members who live with you will help protect them. Using a separate bedroom and bathroom from others in your home will also provide more protection for your family. Use a household disinfectant to wipe down your bathroom each day.
- Try to increase airflow and ventilation in your home. Open or crack windows if possible and clean air filters in your home.
What should I do if I develop symptoms?
- If you’ve had a known exposure to COVID-19 and start to develop symptoms, continue to stay home. Try to now isolate yourself to a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom from others in your home. Do not use the common areas in the home if possible.
- Testing is often recommended if you had a known exposure AND have symptoms. We encourage you to talk to your doctor first if you develop symptoms as they know your health best. Click here to link to Union County’s drive thru testing information.
What should I NOT do while I self-quarantine?
Do not leave your home. Do not invite others to your home. You can go outside and sit on your porch or in your yard, but you should not leave your home. Do not share eating utensils with others. Try to sleep in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom from others in your home.
Can I continue to work while in quarantine?
Most individuals who are self-quarantining should not go to work. If remote work is available, try to use this option.
There are some business sectors in which a critical infrastructure worker could continue to go to work while self-quarantining. This scenario should be discussed with your employer and the Union County Health Department. If you are deemed to be a critical infrastructure employee, you can only go to work as long as you:
- Are symptom free
- Inform your employer of the situation
- You wear a mask the entire time and maintain social distance from others, and
- You only go to and from work/home.
If you begin to show ANY SYMPTOMS, you should immediately leave work and call your supervisor. Do not go to work if you develop any symptoms.