Quarantine verses Isolation


Isolation and quarantine are used to protect the public by preventing exposure to infected people or to people who may be infected by separating those individuals from others to limit the spread of an infectious disease.

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

You quarantine when you might have been exposed to the virus.

You isolate when you have been infected with the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms.

How is it decided whether a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 can self-isolate at home or must go to a hospital or special facility?

  • Mild-moderately sick individuals should stay home and call their doctor for guidance.
  • Ultimately, it is the clinical decision of the healthcare provider as to whether their patient can recover at home or needs further, in-person medical evaluation, care, and possible testing.
  • If someone is advised to stay home and symptoms worsen, they should call their healthcare provider again to re-evaluate.

What do I need to know about ending self-isolation and household quarantine?

  • You should stay home until at least 10 days have passed from the time that your symptoms first appeared AND at least 24 hours after you have recovered.

Recovery is defined as:

  1. You have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medication AND
  2. Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving (Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation). 
  • If you or your child are immunocompromised, you need to self-isolate for 20 days.
  • The County of San Diego has a temporary lodging program for individuals infected by COVID-19 who do not have a place to safely quarantine or isolate.

Household quarantine: If you continue to live with or care for a person with COVID-19, the quarantine guidance is as follows:

  • Your quarantine will end 10 (or up to 14) days after everyone in your household started to follow the Home Isolation Instructions for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  • If you already started your 10-14 day quarantine and then have additional instances of close contact with a person with COVID-19 then you will have to restart the 10-14-day quarantine period. 
  • If you do not have any symptoms or if you have been tested for COVID-19 and your test results are negative, you still need to stay in quarantine for at least 10 days and up to 14 days and continue to watch for symptoms. 

What if I've previously tested positive for COVID-19 or been vaccinated, do I still need to quarantine?

According to the CDC, quarantine is not required for those who gained immunity during the prior three months.

  • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not have to quarantine or get tested again as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
  • People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.
  • People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against the disease within the last three months and show no symptoms.

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