CORONAVIRUS

Shelter In Place, Self-Isolation, Quarantine: What The Terms Mean And How They Differ

Mar 19, 2020, 5:44 PM | Updated: Jun 23, 2022, 11:53 pm
An empty street in the city center on March 08, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte...
An empty street in the city center on March 08, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced overnight a "national emergency" due to the coronavirus outbreak and imposed quarantines on the Lombardy and Veneto regions, which contain roughly a quarter of the country's population. Italy has the highest number of cases and fatalities in Europe. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Isolation, quarantine, shelter in place. These are terms we’re hearing a lot of these days, as authorities try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus that’s sweeping the United States and the rest of the world.

They’re not the same thing, though they all have the goal of keeping others from getting infected. But what do they mean, exactly?

Here are some brief explanations.

Quarantine

This is for people who may have been exposed to the virus. They are asked to stay at home, or as in the case with people who were repatriated from China to the United States, to stay in a provided facility.

They’re required to be in quarantine for 14 days. After that, people who still don’t test positive for the virus no longer have to be in a contained environment.

Some people may choose or be asked to self-quarantine, meaning they do it voluntarily just because they think they may have been exposed or they are being just cautious.

Governments — federal, state and local — can order quarantines, and in fact, those repatriated from China were under a federal quarantine order.

That’s only done in extremely rare situations, though. The last time it was ordered on a large scale was during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Isolation

This is for people who actually have the virus or suspect they may be infected.

Those with the virus who need to be hospitalized will be kept in an isolation unit.

People who have been infected with the virus may be asked to self-isolate at home if they have no symptoms or are only mildly ill.

It’s important to call your health provider, in any case, if you develop symptoms.

Those in isolation should keep away from other people as much as possible. The CDC recommends that you use a separate bathroom, if available, wear a face mask when around others, and don’t share household items.

Shelter in place

Until this week, the term “shelter in place” meant for most people an active shooter situation — stay where you until the coast is clear.

Now, millions of people in California have been ordered to shelter in place, and other areas may follow.

These people are being asked to stay at home as much as possible, meaning they shouldn’t be out unless getting food, gas or other essentials, or for medical reasons.

Health professionals, police, firefighters and other essential service providers are still expected to go to work. And of course, grocery store clerks and gas station attendants are working, too.

Going outside for a walk or exercise is allowed, and even encouraged, in the California counties where the order has been imposed. But people are asked to keep their distance from others.

Answers to some of your top coronavirus questions, every day

It’s all about social distancing, and by now, we probably all know that means keeping six feet apart from other people when out and about.


Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth service through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If  you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at consumerprotection@utah.gov.

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Shelter In Place, Self-Isolation, Quarantine: What The Terms Mean And How They Differ