What does “self-quarantine” actually involve?

What does
A sign in the the Government Center T Station in Boston, created by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, lists ways to stop the spread of germs on March 5, 2020, amid MBTA efforts to step up cleaning to defend against coronavirus. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

In Summary

  • Those who have been asked to quarantine themselves in their homes haven't necessarily been infected with the virus.

State governments have asked thousands of residents to seclude themselves from the rest of the community to help contain the virus.

While the practices of both self-quarantine and self-isolation are used to help curb the spread of the virus, they target different groups.

People who are in isolation are those who have contracted a contagious disease — in this case, people who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Residents in self-quarantine are people who may have come in contact with someone who was infected.

Officials ask these individuals to stay at home for two weeks until it can be determined that they are not ill.

For about 14 days, individuals under self-quarantine can’t go to “work, school or any other public places where they could have contact with others,” according to Seattle & King County’s department of public health in Washington state.

Those who have been asked to quarantine themselves in their homes haven’t necessarily been infected with the virus.

How are those in self-quarantine monitored?

Local and state governments largely follow CDC guidance on how they check in on their quarantined population.

Those individuals should be interviewed by either telephone, text monitoring system or video conference by health officials, according to CDC guidelines.

Public health personnel can also interview residents in person, keeping a distance of at least 6 feet.

But in many communities, reaching out to quarantined residents may mean largely relying on the honor system.

What happens to people who miss work?

But as more individuals are forced to stay home, communities are also having to come up with solutions to accommodate their needs — financial stability and food.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state would assist both employers and employees, with efforts such as providing paid leave benefits for workers who need to take time off.

If the virus results in a “mass layoff or closure,” the governor said the state will work to provide resources and funding to help “impacted workers get connected to unemployment benefits and re-employment services, including re-training, worker support services, and referrals to other social services.”

As for food delivery, one county told CNN it’s usually allowed for those in quarantine and in some cases, the local health district provides groceries.

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