Ease the Anxiety of Isolation or Quarantine by Preparing Now

By Christina Moylan, October 23, 2020
A message from Christina Moylan, Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness.

Public Health Column introduction video. 

An unfortunate reality of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic is that a public health official may notify you that you are positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus or that you have been near someone who is positive for the virus. This will require that you either isolate or quarantine. Understanding what these terms mean, and how to be prepared for them, will go a long way in easing anxiety and making it as comfortable of a process as possible.  

Public health officials use isolation and quarantine as tools to minimize the spread of an infectious disease like COVID-19. These tools separate people who are infectious, or may have been directly exposed to someone who is infectious, from others. They require that you remain within your home, with very limited or no contact with other members of your household or visitors, in a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible.  

"While being notified that you must isolate or quarantine may be jarring, having a prepared household will ease the situation and is just another part of our new reality for our return to South Hill this spring."

Christina Moylan, Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness

Isolation is used with individuals who test positive for COVID-19.  I remember the correct term by thinking about “i” as being “ill” with the virus, which means you must “isolate”. If you are informed that you must isolate, it will be for a minimum of 10 days from the date of your test if you have no symptoms. If you are symptomatic, it will be from the date you started showing symptoms. Isolation may require more than 10 days to complete, depending upon the duration and severity of your symptoms.  

As a positive case, you will also be asked to participate in the contact tracing process to determine your close contacts while you were most infectious. Close contacts include people you were within 6 feet of for more than 15 minutes of cumulative time, within a 24-hour period, during a lookback period. This period is typically within two days of becoming symptomatic or within two days of the test date if asymptomatic. In Tompkins County, our public health nurses conduct the contact tracing process. 

Coronavirus quarantine

If you are determined to be a close contact by contact tracing, you will be required to quarantine in your home for a minimum of 14 days. You currently cannot test out of quarantine by receiving a negative SARS-CoV-2 test. You must complete the full 14-day quarantine. 

Isolation or quarantine will be disruptive to daily life. Your contact with others and the outside world will be restricted. Therefore, making sure your household is prepared before it is required is critical.  

Once in isolation or quarantine, heightened household disinfection strategies are needed and you will not be permitted to leave your home. Having disinfection products, shelf-stable food, and supplies at the ready will make the process less stressful. In Tompkins County, the purchase of disinfection products is limited in many stores to single items. It is a good habit to pick up one disinfection item every time you are shopping to start your own small stockpile.  

The same goes for food supplies, as well as items like laundry detergent, over the counter medicine to treat symptoms like fever, and prescription medicine. Aim to have enough supplies at home to keep your household disinfected and functioning for at least two weeks. Your preparatory stockpile can be supplemented via delivery services as needed – but having a stockpile ensures you are not left empty-handed if you must wait a few days for delivery. 

It is also worthwhile to think about how you might entertain yourself if in quarantine or isolation. A ready stash of books, solitary games, or movies will help combat boredom.  

While being notified that you must isolate or quarantine may be jarring, having a prepared household will ease the situation and is just another part of our new reality for our return to South Hill this spring. 

Let’s keep our numbers low, and our spirits high!      


Christina Moylan, Ph.D.     
Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness