Who needs to isolate or quarantine? And for how long?

There have been 326,817 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 6,639 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Arizona, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services from their Nov. 30, 2020 numbers.

“We know that wearing a mask, physical distancing, and hand washing help reduce the spread of COVID. In October, the CDC reported that the number of COVID cases decreased by 75% in Arizona when cities and counties across the state implemented mask mandates. Now is not the time to stop practicing these safety measures,” said Blue Cross® Blue Shield® of Arizona Chief Medical Officer, Dr. James Napoli. 

When you have COVID-19, or you've been exposed to it, one of the best things you can do for your community and loved ones is to stay away from others. Stopping the spread during those critical days is key to containing the virus, especially during the holidays as friends and families gather.

Your doctor should be your first source for advice on how to isolate or quarantine. But in general, here's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends.

What's the difference?

Isolation is for people who have COVID-19. The purpose is to keep others from getting sick. According to the CDC, you should isolate if you:

  • Have symptoms of COVID-19 and can recover at home.
  • Have no symptoms but tested positive for the virus.

Quarantine is for people who may have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19. The purpose is to protect others while waiting to see if you also become sick. According to CDC, close contact means any of the following:

  • You were within 6 feet of them for 15 minutes or more.
  • You had direct contact (like hugging or kissing).
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils.
  • They sneezed, coughed or somehow got respiratory droplets on you.

How long do I need to isolate?

According to CDC, if you have symptoms, isolation should last until you meet all of the following criteria:

  • It's been at least 10 days since your symptoms started.
  • You've been fever-free for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medicine.
  • Your other symptoms are improving.
If you tested positive but have no symptoms, isolation should continue until 10 days after your positive test. Follow your doctor’s advice.

How long do I need to quarantine?

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear, according to CDC. So quarantine should last for 14 days from the last date of close contact you had with a person who has COVID-19.

If you have a new close contact within the 14 days, you should start over. If you are living with someone who has COVID-19 and can't avoid them, you should quarantine while they are sick and for 14 days after they end isolation.