Isolation and Quarantine

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Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who are sick or have been exposed to people who are sick. Generally, as long as the site is suitable, a person’s residence is the preferred setting for quarantine and isolation, according to the CDC.

    Isolation or self-isolation applies to people who:
    • Have a positive COVID-19 test.
    • Have symptoms of COVID-19 (coughing, shortness of breath and/or fever).
    • Are getting ill and think they might have COVID-19. Symptoms, especially early on, may be mild and feel like a common cold. Symptoms could include a combination of cough, body aches, fatigue, and chest tightness. Some people may not develop fever or fever may not appear until several days into the illness.

    Quarantine or self-quarantine applies to people who: 
    • Are close contacts of a person who either has a positive test or symptoms --  even early symptoms -- of illness.

    The differences between isolation and quarantine

    Isolation and self-isolation
    • Separate sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
    • Are for people who are already sick.
    • Can be voluntary, but public health agencies have legal authority to issue isolation orders to people who are sick.
    • If you have tested positive for COVID-19 OR if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, including early or mild symptoms (see above), you should be in isolation (stay away from others) until:
      • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers)
      • other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
      • At least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared
      • CDC: What to do if you are in isolation:
    • Health care workers may have to isolate for longer and should do what they are told by the health care facility they work for. 

    Quarantine and self-quarantine
    • Separate people and restricts their movement if they were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. This could include exposure to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or a person with the symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Are for people who are not sick, but who may have been exposed to (in close contact with) someone who is sick. This could include members of your household, co-workers, or others you spend a great deal of time with (and are within six feet of for 10 minutes or more).
    • Can be voluntary, but public health has legal authority to issue quarantine orders to people who were exposed to a contagious disease.
    • Quarantined people:
      • Stay at home or in another location for 14 days so they don’t spread the disease to healthy people.
      • Can seek medical treatment from a health care provider. In the case of COVID-19, they should CALL a provider or clinic first to get instructions BEFORE going to a health care office, hospital, or urgent care. If they have a medical emergency, they should tell the 911 dispatcher they are under quarantine for COVID-19.

    Enforcement of isolation and quarantine

    • State and local public health agencies request that Coloradans and visitors from other states or countries voluntarily cooperate with isolation and quarantine instructions.
    • State or local public health agencies may issue isolation and quarantine orders in some high-risk situations or if non-compliance is anticipated. 
    • If people do not follow the orders, public health agencies can involve law enforcement.
    • If enforcement were to become necessary, the entity that issued the order (the state or local public health agency) could file an enforcement action in state district court asking a judge to enforce the order. The court could also levy fines but, on the whole, public health is more interested in compliance with the terms of the order.
    • Public health agencies are working hard to make sure the needs of people in isolation/quarantine are being met to help ensure compliance.