Isolation and Quarantine

What does isolation mean?

Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

What does quarantine mean?

Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed, in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the span of time during which people have developed illness after exposure. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period. 

WHAT IS the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. 

whats the difference

What is the length of time people need to be in isolation?

If you test positive for COVID-19(Isolate) regardless of vaccination status:

  • Stay home (isolate) for 5 days after your symptoms begin. If you have no symptoms, stay home for five days after you were tested.
  • If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolved after 5 days, you can end your isolation and leave your house. 
  • Wear a mask around others for 5 additional days after ending your isolation.

*If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves. 

How do I calculate my quarantine or isolation period?

Quarantine Calculator (Source: State of South Dakota) 

How do I know if I am a close Contact and exposed to Covid-19?

A close contact is someone who was less than 6 feet away from infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinical diagnosis) for a consecutive total of 15 minutes or more. An infected person can spread SARS-CoV-2 starting from 2 days before they have any symptoms (or, for asymptomatic people, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date), until they meet the criteria for ending isolation.

  • Exception: In the K–12 indoor classroom setting or a structured outdoor setting where mask use can be observed (i.e., holding class outdoors with educator supervision), the close contact definition excludes students who were between 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinical diagnosis) if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time.

This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting

What is the Length of Time People Need To Be In Quarantine?

Close contacts should follow CDC’s guidance for quarantine after exposure. The following individuals do not need to quarantine after an exposure to COVID-19 if they remain asymptomatic:

  • Age 18 or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters if eligible.
  • Age 5-17 years old and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines
  • Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days

A person is considered fully vaccinated ≥2 weeks after completing their primary vaccine series. A person is considered boosted on the same day as they receive their booster shot.

REFERENCE: CDC has updated isolation and quarantine recommendations for the public on January 4, 2022. The most up-to-date guidance can be found here.

Should I self-Isolate if I Think I Am Sick?

Montgomery County recommends that you voluntarily self-isolate if you feel sick. For additional guidance visit CDC’s What to Do If You Are Sick.

Can someone who has been released from quarantine for COVID-19 spread the illness to others? 

Typically, someone who has been asked to quarantine is monitored for signs and symptoms of a disease to develop. A person who has been released from quarantine is generally not considered a risk for the spreading the virus because they have not developed the illness during the incubation period. CDC recommends that individuals continue to mask for five days following the end of their quarantine.


Exposure and Testing
Prevention and Vaccine