Have you been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 or are you experiencing symptoms? You may be asked by your health care provider to self-isolate or quarantine.  


These words have been used interchangeably because they both require you to stay home and stay away from others. However, there’s a difference between these terms. 


What’s Isolation?  

Isolation asks a sick person who is infected with COVID-19 to stay home and separate themselves from others, including those within their household.  

If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you must self-isolate for at least 10 days beginning from the onset of symptoms–regardless of your test result & vaccination status.


What Does Isolation Look Like? 

1. Stay home and do not go out in public.

This means not leaving your house for an extended period. Use contactless delivery to get your essential needs, like food and meals. Staying home and not going out in public also means that you won’t be attending any in-person classes. 


2. Stay away from other members in your household.

This means staying in your room or designated zone–not roaming around–within your house or residence hall.


3. Avoid sharing personal items.

Do not share any personal items with others within your household. Designate a separate set of blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, dishes, cups, and utensils for someone who is ill.


4. Wear a mask during every interaction with your caretaker.

You’ll most likely be having someone checking in on you while in isolation. Remember to wear your mask and keep as much physical distance as possible during every interaction with your caretaker. 


You may come out of isolation after 10+ days, your symptoms are improving and you’re fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen.  


It is not recommended to get another COVID-19 test to see if you get a negative result due to the limited availability of testing. If you experience loss of taste or smell as one of your COVID-19 symptoms, it may take weeks or even months to regain those senses.


What’s Quarantine?  

Quarantine asks a healthy person who has came in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19 to stay home to avoid becoming sick.  

If you have come in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must quarantine for 14 days. You can come out of quarantine after 14 days have passed since your last contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and you didn’t develop any symptoms yourself.  

If you are vaccinated, you do not need to quarantine. If you are exposed, it is recommended to wear a mask and get tested within 3-5 days after known exposure. Continue to wear a mask for 14 days or until you have received negative test results.

If symptoms develop during quarantine or you test positive, you need to begin isolating immediately–regardless of vaccination status.

There is a possibility to get an early release from quarantine if you meet the required criteria. If you believe you have met the criteria for an early release, please email Ask-A-Nurse at askanurse@winona.edu with an explanation of how you have met each.

What Does Quarantine Look Like? 


1. Stay home as much as possible.

This means only leaving your house to run errands such as getting groceries or other important supplies. Limit the number of outings for only getting essential needs and use online shopping or curbside pickup when possible. Staying home also means not attending any in-person classes. 


2. Physical distance yourself from others.

This means staying six feet apart from others while running essential errands. Stay away from others within your household. Do not invite others into your home or visit others in their home. 


3. Wear a mask.

This means wearing a mask while running errands and being in spaces where physical distancing is difficult. 


4. Wash or sanitize your hands often.

This means frequently washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and running water. When hand washing isn’t available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. 


5. Avoid touching your face.

This means avoiding touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth, nose, and ears, with unwashed hands. If you have glasses, wearing them may help act as an extra barrier of protection and may help you avoid touching your face.  


So, What’s the Difference? 

The main difference between the two terms is that isolation is for someone who is sick, and quarantine is for someone who might be sick.  

Isolation lasts for at least 10 days if your symptoms improve and you’re fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication. Quarantine lasts for 14 days since your last contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.  


Either way, here are some tips to keep yourself entertained while alone in isolation or quarantine: 

  • Stay connected with friends and family through phone and video calls. 
  • Get creative by coloring, painting, or drawing. 
  • Stay away from watching COVID-19 news by binge-watching a new TV show. 
  • Read a book or start a virtual book club with friends. 
  • Practice self-care by taking a bath or having a spa night with a cleansing face mask (and yes–face masks are good for men, too). 
  • Host a Zoom game night or play online video games with friends on Discord. 
  • Teach yourself a new skill or online software such as the Adobe Suite. 


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Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson graduated in 2020 with a degree in Art: I-Design. As a student, she worked with the University Marketing & Communications team as a writer and photographer. She was hired after graduation to support public health communications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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