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How to self-quarantine with COVID-19

A woman on a couch holding a mug.

If you develop COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus that causes it, you may be asked to self-isolate (if you're sick) or self-quarantine (if you might be sick). But what does that mean?

In some people, COVID-19 is mild enough that you can safely recover at home. But you need to protect other people at the same time. If your doctor or local health department asks you to self-isolate or self-quarantine, here's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to do:

Don't leave home except to get medical care. Staying home means no activities at work, school or any other public places. Don't use taxis, ride-sharing or public transportation either. If you do need medical care, call ahead for instructions. If it's an emergency, call 911.

Keep away from people and pets at home. You need to keep a safe distance (at least 6 feet) from others. If you can, restrict yourself to a sick room and try to use a separate bathroom from others. Avoid handling your pets, and let another family member take care of their needs at this time, if possible.

Use a face mask. You should wear a face mask whenever you can't avoid being around other people or pets, or if you're told to come to a hospital or doctor's office. 

Cover your coughs. When you need to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and throw it in the trash. Then wash your hands right away.

Clean your hands often. This is an important habit to keep up, even if you already have COVID-19. Use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds. If you don't have soap and water, a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol will work, but make sure to rub your hands together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

Clean high-touch surfaces. Objects that you and others touch often need to be disinfected daily. Most household disinfectants should work. It's best to clean your own sick room and bathroom if you can, wearing disposable gloves. If someone else must clean them, they should wear a mask and gloves.

Stay home until you get the green light. People with COVID-19 must remain at home until their doctors have determined it's safe to go back out. The timing may not be the same for everyone. So try to be patient, and follow your doctor's instructions.

Remember, playing by these rules helps keep everyone in your community safer. And that may save lives.

Reviewed 7/28/2022

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