Quarantine and isolation are two tools that the public health community uses to both contain the spread of infectious disease and to purify the testing process and the results found therein. If you’re gearing up for a COVID-19 test with us, here’s everything you need to know about self-isolation before, during, and after.
Have you been exposed to COVID-19?
If you’ve been in close contact with somebody who might be COVID-positive, there are several prescriptive courses that you may be asked to take.
Fully-vaccinated people and those who have received at least one booster might not need to quarantine entirely, although stepping back from social gatherings and even others in their households are highly recommended. Mask-wearing at this juncture is a must, even if you’re completely up-to-date on your vaccinations.
Unvaccinated people and those who have received a full round of vaccination in excess of six months previously are advised to commit to a completely cloistered quarantine for at least five days, with mandatory mask-wearing up to ten days afterward.
In both cases, the CDC recommends testing yourself for COVID on day five, or the first day that you feel symptomatic.
Before testing and during testing
For many types of COVID tests, the waiting period will be so brief that the patient will likely end up “isolating” by sheer definition alone—waiting alone at home for thirty minutes while a rapid test delivers your results, for example.
More contentious than the fact that you’re testing is whether or not the test is your first test or a confirmation test. In order to avoid polluting your second round of results, those taking confirmatory tests should do what they can to self-isolate while they wait.
For many, serial testing is a weekly requirement, one that does not always allow for full isolation as a priority over other responsibilities. The good news is that those testing frequently enjoy a position of knowledge not afforded to those simply doing what they can to avoid the virus to begin with.
Testing negative twice a week provides an extra layer of assurance in this way. Still, if you’re exposed on a regular basis, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, even if that just means taking it easy at home before your testing days.
If you test positive…
A positive COVID-19 test is sort of like the great equalizer. Everybody, regardless of vaccination or booster status, should stay home and completely isolated for five days minimum.
If you can feel yourself recovering physically after five days have elapsed, you may leave your home, although it’s recommended that you adhere stringently to mask-wearing and social distancing if you choose to do so.
By this point, hopefully, you’ll be in the home stretch. Test yourself again after five more days; if you still have not recovered fully, consult your physician before doing anything else.
If you test negative…
If your COVID test came back negative, you’re in the clear. There are currently no CDC recommendations that mandate healthy individuals to isolate themselves after testing negative, aside from measures taken in self-defense and at the request of the public health officials governing wherever you happen to live.
Thankfully, the worst of the lockdowns appear to have subsided for the time being. In fact, the CDC has actually rescinded some of the harsher rules surrounding the pandemic semi-recently, the source for all of the recommendations outlined above.
Self-isolation and quarantine: the mini-vacation you deserve
Self-isolation and quarantine are not perfect sciences—the COVID-19 incubation period can last for up to fourteen days, and it’s not always easy to tell when you were exposed initially when you finally do begin to feel symptomatic.
All in all, we recommend using your best judgement, as well as following the advice of your doctor when the path ahead becomes unclear. An afternoon or two relaxing at home? We’re certainly not complaining.