Quarantine vs Isolation: What’s the difference?

One of the biggest questions that has come up during the Coronavirus Pandemic has been identifying the differences between ‘quarantine’ and ‘isolation’.

A couple weeks ago we pointed out that some counties are classifying those with COVID-19 in daily reports as ‘positives’ or people in ‘isolation’. The use of the term ‘isolation’ in different settings is adding to some confusion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently changed its own benchmark for how long quarantine should last.

That said, at the end of the day there are simple differences between quarantine and isolation.




Officials in Ontario County posted a helpful graphic to Facebook on Thursday outlining the differences.

New York State Department of Health still requires a 14 day quarantine for those with significant exposure risk. “We have had patients become positive 10-14 days after exposure,” health officials in Ontario County said, responding to questions about the new CDC guidance.

So, here’s how it all works.

If you’re exposed to someone who tested positive – depending on exposure level – health officials may ask you to quarantine for 14 days. This allows a person to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. Isolation starts when a person tests positive for COVID-19.

In theory, if a person spends 13 days in quarantine and tests positive on the 14th day – they would need to spend another 10 days in isolation to allow for symptoms to clear.

That said, when a health department reports that they have a certain number of cases ‘in isolation’ it means there are that many active cases of COVID-19.

Health officials say the goal of it all is to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Here’s a look at the image, which is credited to Senior Airman Monica Roybal, according to the Ontario County Health Department.


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