Coronavirus & Self-Quarantining: Who Should Do It and How to Do It

March 16, 2020 - Katie McCallum

It may feel like there are a lot of uncertainties in the world right now, but one thing is for sure: The new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will continue to be among us for some time.

Even if you're doing everything right, like washing your hands and practicing social distancing, you may still find yourself in a situation where you're concerned you've been exposed to the virus.

An epidemic is a good time to be on high alert, but self-quarantining is only necessary if you're reasonably suspicious that you're infected with the virus. People who are healthy, however, should still be social distancing.

Here's what you need to know about who should self-quarantine and how to do it the right way.

Who should self-quarantine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends self-quarantining only if you have reason to believe you've been exposed to the virus.

For instance, if you feel healthy but have recently come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, it's time to self-quarantine. In the meantime, consider brushing up on what to do if you think you have COVID-19.

If you're healthy, don’t have any symptoms and don't fall into one of the risk categories above, you don't need to self-quarantine — but you should continue to practice social distancing and monitor yourself for signs and symptoms, like fever and cough.

Keep in mind, it can take anywhere from two to 14 days for COVID-19 symptoms to appear, and you may be able to spread the virus in this pre-symptomatic period. In addition, there's growing evidence that a significant portion of infected individuals are asymptomatic but can still spread the virus. This is why it's important to wear a cloth face covering outside of your home, even if you don't feel sick.

How to self-quarantine

Based on what's currently known about how long symptoms last, the recommended length of quarantine is 14 days. The goal is to prevent inadvertently spreading the virus to others by separating yourself long enough to determine whether or not you're infected and showing symptoms.

The CDC recommends taking the following steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

Stay home

You'll need to restrict your activities outside of your home, including going to school, work, public areas or using public transportation.

The CDC recommends that if you think or know you have COVID-19, you should self-quarantine for the 10 days after your symptoms first appeared and 24 hours have passed since your last fever (without using a fever reducer) and any other COVID-19 symptoms, such as dry cough, are improving.

If you're asymptomatic, you will need to self-quarantine for the 10 days following your positive COVID-19 test.

Only leave the house if you need to see your doctor and you have called ahead to discuss and plan your appointment.

Separate yourself from the people and pets you share your home with

If possible, stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom — especially if someone you live with is higher risk for severe illness.

If you're living with someone who has COVID-19, make sure you know how to share a home with someone who's sick — without getting sick yourself.

Wash your hands often

Practicing proper hand hygiene can help prevent the spread of the virus. Wash your hands after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing. In addition, avoid touching your face.

Don't share your stuff

Avoid sharing the following items with people or animals in your home:

  • Bedding
  • Dishes, drinking glasses and utensils
  • Towels, including hand towels in the kitchen and bathroom


Disinfect commonly touched surfaces every day

Early evidence shows that the new coronavirus can live on surfaces for hours or even days in some cases.

At least once per day, be sure to clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces around your home, including:

  • Bathroom fixtures
  • Counters
  • Door knobs
  • Keyboards
  • Phones


To disinfect surfaces, you can use common household cleaner or a diluted bleach solution.

Monitor your symptoms

Twice a day, take your temperature to check for a fever. Also, take note if you're beginning to cough or experiencing shortness of breath.

You may or may not experience COVID-19 symptoms (coughing, fever and shortness of breath) during your quarantine. If you do begin experiencing symptoms:

  • Wear a cloth face mask when you're around people or using common spaces in your home
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes and immediately wash your hands afterward
  • Contact your health care provider or use telemedicine to seek guidance from home


Use telemedicine or call ahead before seeing your doctor

If you begin experiencing symptoms and/or need medical advice from a health care provider, consider trying telemedicine first. If you need to go to your doctor's office, let your care team know ahead of time that you may have COVID-19. This will help the team take the precautionary steps needed to protect other people from being exposed to the virus.

By carefully following these tips, along with guidance from the CDC and public health officials, you can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect your friends and loved ones, as well as those most at risk of severe infection.


Concerned you may have COVID-19?

  • If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will be able to help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on what to do next.


This article was updated on August 24, 2020 to reflect the current state of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

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