Self-isolation explained

This article was last reviewed on June 7, 2021.

Self-isolation is an important way to protect yourself and others and slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Self-isolation means staying at home, and applies to those who have symptoms or those who live in the same household as someone with symptoms. It is different from social distancing, which refers to the steps you can take to reduce social interaction.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or tested positive for COVID-19, you may be asked to self-isolate. You need to stay home for at least 10 days and avoid contact with other people.1

You can stop self-isolation after

  • it has been 10 days since your symptoms first started AND
  • at least 24 hours with no fever AND
  • other COVID-19 symptoms are improving

If you have not had symptoms, you can stop self-isolation if it has been 10 days since your positive COVID-19 test.

If you have had a severe illness or are immunocompromised, you should discuss with your healthcare provider regarding when you can stop self-isolation.

If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should stay home until 14 days after your last exposure and maintain social distance (at least 6 feet) from others at all times. You should also self-monitor for symptoms.

  • If you are considered fully vaccinated and you have been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • If you live or work in a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.2

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/end-home-isolation.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html
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How to self-isolate in case of COVID-19 symptoms

  • Stay at home
  • Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing (like Uber and Lyft), and taxis
  • Stay away from others as much as possible if you feel sick
  • If you go outside, stay at least six feet away from others and wear a face mask that completely covers your nose and mouth
  • Do not invite visitors into your home
  • Have groceries and medicine delivered to your house by friends, family, or delivery services
  • Ask for deliveries to be left outside your house for you to collect, unless delivered by a member of your household

If you live with other people:

If you are sick and live with someone at higher risk for complications from COVID-19, try to arrange for them to stay elsewhere while you are in self-isolation. If this is not possible, you should:

  • Stay in a specific “sick room” away from other people in the home
  • Wear a facemask around other people
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of it immediately after
  • Wash your hands often, following the CDC’s recommendations
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces everyday

How to cope with self-isolation

Self-isolation can be a challenging time, both mentally and physically. We’ve put together some helpful tips on how to cope with staying at home.