Coronavirus Updates and Resources

Social Distancing, Self-quarantine, Self-isolation, and When You Should Practice Them

Updated on March 27, 2020

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Updated March 24, 2020

As more cities take significant steps towards coronavirus containment, the guidelines around social distancing and self-quarantine efforts continue to grow as well. But these terms can get confusing and intertwined as the frequency of their adoption increases.

Here’s what each step looks like, who they apply to, and why they’re set in place.

Why are we taking steps to distance ourselves amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks?  

There are a limited number of hospital resources and COVID-19 testing kits in the U.S. Because of this, public health officials have said that our goal should be to slow the spread of the coronavirus for us to flatten the curve. Flattening the curve is a direct result of these efforts and allows health care systems more time to treat those that are most at risk of COVID-19.

Source: CDC

Social Distancing

What does social distancing mean?

Social distancing is the effort to maintain a distance between you and other people to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, which helps hospitals better manage capacity and resources.

It’s advised to keep at least a distance of 6ft between you and others and to have minimal contact with people outside of your family unit during the coronavirus outbreaks.

This strategy saved thousands of lives in Mexico City during the 2009 flu pandemic. (Source: The New York Times)

Who should practice social distancing?

Everyone in effected regions should practice social distancing. At the time of this article, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against any gatherings of 10 or more people over the next 8 weeks.

Social distancing affects medium to larger institutions such as universities and places of work. Many of which are now acting accordingly and offering virtual classes or work from home options.

Although this is currently a recommendation, many counties are starting to enforce social distancing through legal orders. Please check with your local health office to see recent mandates about social distancing and the coronavirus.

Self-Quarantine and Monitoring

What does self-quarantine mean?

Self-quarantining is the practice of staying indoors and away from anyone who may be high risk for at least 14 days. By spending at least two weeks in quarantine, you will have enough time to determine if you are ill and contagious to other people. This can help to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19.

Activities to practice during quarantine are not sharing utensils with family members or roommates, not having outside visitors, and staying at least 6 ft away from others in your household. It’s also recommended that you regularly check your temperature and watch for coronavirus symptoms such as respiratory illness or shortness of breath.

Who should self-quarantine?

At the time of this article, quarantine is recommended for people who may have been exposed or are at risk of contracting the coronavirus. This is relevant to people who recently returned from travel to parts of the world where coronavirus cases are high, if you have been exposed to someone with the virus, or if you are feeling unwell with relevant symptoms.  

Self-Isolation

What does self-isolation mean?

Self-isolation occurs when someone is diagnosed with COVID-19. This is an intensive version of self-quarantine and occurs either at a hospital or home. Those in self-isolation are asked to stay away from other people in their homes. They may also be given a mask to wear when leaving their room and traveling to medical facilities.

Who should practice self-isolation during coronavirus outbreaks?

This only applies to people who are confirmed to have the coronavirus (COVID-19). Specialized protective resources will be used to care for anyone in self-isolation.

What to do if you become unwell or experience symptoms and think you may have coronavirus?

The CDC recommends that if you are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness, cough, or difficulty breathing, to call your doctor immediately before visiting the office. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, you should still go to the ER.


Our mission at e-Health is to support the health and well-being of individuals and small-business. For additional coronavirus advice, health tips, and information on coverage, please visit eHealth.com

For information and guidelines specific to the coronavirus outbreak, visit cdc.gov

This article is for general information and should not be relied on as medical advice. Check with a medical professional for medical advice.

We’ll let you know when we publish anything new.