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Two different terms- isolation and quarantine – are used by public health when talking about the requirement to remain home and away from other people to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure from people who have, or may have, COVID-19.

The CDC offers the following definitions:

  • Isolation keeps people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 separated from others.
  • Quarantine restricts the movement of people who were exposed to COVID-19 during the incubation period to make sure they do not infect others prior to having signs and symptoms of COVID.

Whether you have tested positive for COVID-19, or if you have been identified as a close contact of someone else who tested positive, the requirements are the same: stay at home!

Once a positive case is identified, they are told to isolate.

  • Positive without symptoms: Isolate for 10 days from the day of positive test. If you develop symptoms, follow the information in the next bullet.
  • Positive with symptoms: Isolate at least 10 days from the day symptoms first appeared, and you are fever free for 24 hours without the help of fever-reducing medication, and other COVID-19 symptoms are improving.

Note: Isolation means stay home the entire time unless you must leave to seek medical care. Stay away from others in your home in a separate location without face to face contact and do not use shared spaces.

Contact tracing is the next step to reduce the spread. Individuals will be notified if they have had close contact with a positive case. CDC defines a close personal contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

Contact tracers are doing their best to reach positive cases and their close contacts, but their work can be hampered by inaccurate information and unanswered calls. It is important to answer the call if the caller ID shows either Garrett County Health Department or MD COVID. Calls from contact tracers could show up as either one, but on cell phones with a US Cellular plan it may display a different out of area number.

“If you know for certain you have been exposed, quarantine yourself whether or not you get a call,” said Dr. Jennifer Corder, Deputy Health Officer for Garrett and Allegany Counties. “And, if you know you are positive, isolate whether or not you have symptoms. It’s time for everyone to do the responsible thing. Contact tracing, isolation and quarantine are key elements of mitigation, and everyone needs to be knowledgeable, responsible, and take this seriously. The health department will continue to work tirelessly with case investigations and contact tracing.”

If you have been identified as a close contact of someone who is diagnosed with COVID-19, you will be required to quarantine for 14 days from the last exposure to the positive case. If you live with that person and they cannot isolate from you, your quarantine period does not start until their isolation period is over.

The Garrett County Health Officer has the authority to order anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, or has been determined to be a close contact of someone who has, to comply with isolation or quarantine as appropriate. “Fortunately, the vast majority of those contacted are compliant and do the right thing,” said Health Officer Bob Stephens. “Unfortunately, there are a few who have had to be served an order, because they did not voluntarily comply and thus put the entire community at risk of the spread of the virus.”

To download a one sheet infographic about Isolation and Quarantine go to https://bit.ly/gc-iq.

Throughout the pandemic, state and local health officials have required or recommended various general safety precautions such as wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing, washing hands, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

For more information call the Garrett County COVID-19 hotline at 301-334-7698 or visit garretthealth.org.