Quarantine vs. Isolation: What’s the difference?

Quarantine vs. Isolation: What’s the difference?

When do I quarantine? How is isolation different from quarantining? These two terms have been used quite a bit since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. What really is the difference between the two? Why is it important? Below we explain the differences based on CDC Guidelines.


Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. In other words, quarantines keep someone who was in close contact with someone else who has COVID-19 away from others.

You should quarantine when you have been within six feet for more than 15 minutes with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19.

How to quarantine:

  • Stay home until after 14 days from your last contact.
  • Check your temperature twice a day and watch for any other symptoms.
  • If possible, stay away from people who are at higher risk for getting seriously sick with COVID-19.


Isolation separates people sick with a contagious disease from people who aren’t sick.  If a person tests positive for COVID-19 or has a pending test, they should be separated from others who are not sick, even in their own home.

How to isolate:

  • Stay home until after at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and symptoms have improved.
  • If you are not showing symptoms, stay home until 10 days have passed since your positive test.
  • If you live in a home with others, stay in a designated sick room or area of the house. If possible, use a different bathroom.

Though it can be confusing at times to know which one is which, if you follow these guidelines after being exposed or testing positive for COVID-19, you will do your part in helping to stop the spread.


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