elderly woman socially distancing from family at home

Social Distancing, Quarantine, And Isolation: What’s The Difference And Why Do They Matter?

Why Are Social Distancing, Quarantine, And Isolation Important?

Person to person — that’s how the novel coronavirus spreads. It does so easily and sustainably through tiny droplets in the air that can land in your nose or mouth — or even be inhaled into your lungs. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, so the best way to protect yourself is by avoiding exposure entirely through social distancing, quarantine, or isolation.



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Level 1:
Social Distancing


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Level 2:


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Level 3:

What is it?

  • Also called physical distancing 
  • Staying 6 feet away from others outside of household 
  • Avoiding large groups and crowds
  • Watching for symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath 
  • Wearing a mask if social distancing is difficult to maintain

  • Separating from others
  • Staying home as much as possible
  • Monitoring symptoms, including checking temperature twice a day
  • Avoiding those at risk of serious illness from COVID-19
  • Wearing a mask if social distancing is difficult to maintain

  • Remaining in a designated “sick room” away from people and animals
  • Using a separate bathroom, if possible 
  • Staying home except for medical care 
  • Wearing a mask if social distancing is difficult to maintain
Who should be doing it?

  • Everyone in a place where COVID-19 has spread (currently the entire US)

  • Anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 but doesn’t have symptoms, such as someone who recently had contact with a person with COVID-19

  • Anyone with a suspected (due to symptoms, such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath) or confirmed case of COVID-19
How long should it be done?

  • Until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines change and say otherwise

  • 14 days

  • No fever for 72 hours (without fever-reducing medication
  • Using a separate bathroom, if possible 
  • Improved symptoms 
  • 2 negative tests in a row or 7 days since first symptoms appeared

Staying Connected While Staying Away

Social interaction is important for your well-being both physically and mentally. Try keeping in touch by video chatting; setting up virtual game nights, dinners, or happy hours; joining a virtual workout class — or even picking up the phone for a regular old phone call.

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