This post will answer the questions:

  1. Who should isolate?
  2. How should I isolate to prevent spread of COVID0-19?
  3. Why do I have to stay quarantined for 14 days?
  4. Why should I isolate at all and how does that prevent spread of COVID-19?

Fortunately, I’m not feeling so bad today. Robitussin DM allowed me to sleep relatively well and I am functional with tylenol but I am still in quarantine. Interestingly, the word “quarantine” originates from quarantena, the Venetian language form, meaning “forty days”. This is due to the 40-day isolation of ships and people before they were allowed to enter Venice practiced as a measure of disease prevention.

I am blessed to have a basement with a bathroom and a bedroom which probably beats the conditions on medieval ships. I am also fortunate to have a laptop and a ping pong table which is acting as my oversized office desk. I have rendered the table unusable for playing ping pong which wouldn’t be a good idea anyways. Even though my table tennis opponent would be more than 6 feet away, I don’t want the ping pong ball to act as a fomite. I am on full lockdown isolation.

What I am doing

I have put down tape to create a line on the floor in the basement that noone is allowed to cross. They are bringing me down clothes, food, and other supplies. Because of its vital necessity, I’ve got a hot water urn so coffee will not be delayed – its a quarantine, not the gulag. When they bring stuff down to the basement they drop it on the other side of the line and I pick it up after they step back more than 6 feet. We are avoiding handing things directly to each other.

Because I have a confirmed case the rest of the family is on lock down as well. They aren’t leaving the house at all. We really weren’t going anywhere before but my wife previously would go to the store and now people are shopping for us. Hopefully we’ll be able to repay their kindness once we’ve recovered.

Who should isolate

If you feel sick you should stay home and do your best to stay away from other family members. If you remember from the previous post about transmission, the disease is primarily spread via the fomite-to-face route so be extra diligent about cleaning surfaces that you touch (especially door and appliance handles). Having your own bathroom and avoiding going to the kitchen is ideal. If you cannot manage this, wear a mask and wipe down any surface you touch whenever you are in an area where someone else in the household will be. This is in addition to being extra diligent about cleaning surfaces in general.

If you get a dry cough and fevers you should assume you have COVID 19. All people in the home should isolate for 14 days to make sure they don’t also get sick. The reason for 14 days is some people who were exposed didn’t get sick until 14 days after exposure so you can’t be sure you didn’t get infected until you have waited 14 days. Those who do get sick usually don’t have symptoms for 4-5 days before they get symptoms and spread the virus around. You want to isolate to make sure you don’t spread it around without knowing it. If its been 14 days and you have not been sick it means the contact did not infect you and you can go back to the regular precautions everyone is advised to take.

Why you should isolate

The steps above will minimize the spread for sure. My family has been following the general recommendations since last week. I got a call from the state department of public health who asked me to trace all my contacts since being exposed. Unfortunately, I had exposed people at work without knowing as I had no choice but to work at the hospital. It occurred to me that, if that question had been asked to my wife, she could say clearly that she had not had contact with anyone but her immediate family.

That is the reason to isolate. If you are sick with the virus and have not had close contact with anyone you have not given it to anyone. Not everyone needs to be so strict as people who are sick or have been exposed to people who are sick. They should follow the recommendations of staying 6 feet away (because the virus falls to the ground by 6 feet), washing your hands well and often, and cleaning surfaces regularly.

The main reason that you should follow the guidelines on preventing spread is that you don’t want to be responsible for spreading the disease further. You don’t want to get other people sick. Aside from that, it was no fun having to call people to tell them I may have exposed them. I had a mixture of guilt and embarrassment. When you stick to the isolation and quarantine recommendations of the CDC and government you have fewer calls to make.

So please, please take the recommendations seriously. Keep your distance, keep your hands and surfaces clean, and isolate if you’re sick or have contacted someone with the virus .

More Reading:

10 thoughts on “What is quarantine?

  1. Dr. Grove, how long does recovery typically take? Once you recover, can you get sick from the virus again or continue to infect other people?


    1. Hi Josh,
      Recovery varies depending on how sick you get. It does not appear that you can get sick and infect other people after you recover. This will be a topic of future posts.


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