Social Distancing, Quarantine and Isolation
Keep Your Distance to Slow the Spread
What is social distancing?
Limiting face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home.
To practice social or physical distancing stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people.
In addition to everyday steps to prevent COVID-19, keeping space between you and others is one of the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to this virus and slowing its spread locally and across the country and world.
Limit close contact with others outside your household in indoor and outdoor spaces. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay away from others when possible, even if you—or they—have no symptoms. Social distancing is especially important for people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Many people have personal circumstances or situations that present challenges with practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please see the following guidance for additional recommendations and considerations for:
- Households Living in Close Quarters: How to Protect Those Who Are Most Vulnerable
- Living in Shared Housing
- People with Disabilities
- People Experiencing Homelessness
Why practice social distancing?
COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. COVID-19 can live for hours or days on a surface, depending on factors such as sun light and humidity. Social distancing helps limit contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces.
Although the risk of severe illness may be different for everyone, anyone can get and spread COVID-19. Everyone has a role to play in slowing the spread and protecting themselves, their family, and their community.
Stress and Coping. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and having to socially distance yourself from someone you love can be difficult.
Read tips for stress and coping.
How are quarantine and isolation different?
Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.
Isolation is used to separate people infected with the virus (those who are sick with COVID-19 and those with no symptoms) from people who are not infected. People who are in isolation should stay home until it’s safe for them to be around others. In the home, anyone sick or infected should separate themselves from others by staying in a specific “sick room” or area and using a separate bathroom (if available).
How are quarantine and isolation similar?
Both quarantine and isolation:
- involve separation of people to protect the public
- help limit further spread of COVID-19
- can be done voluntarily or be required by health authorities
How do I know if I need to be in isolation or quarantine?
If you live in a community where COVID-19 is or might be spreading (currently,
that is virtually everywhere in the United States)
Steps to take:
- Watch Your Health
If you feel healthy but:
- Recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19
Steps to take:
- Stay Home and Monitor Your Health (Quarantine)
- Stay home until 14 days after your last exposure..
- Check your temperature twice a day and watch for symptoms of COVID-19.
- If possible, stay away from people who are at higher-risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
- Have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or
- Are waiting for test results, or
- Have cough, fever, or shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19
Steps to take:
- Isolate Yourself from Others (Isolation)
- Recently traveled from somewhere outside the United States or on a cruise ship or river boat
Steps to take:
- Follow CDC guidance for returning from international travel returning from cruise ship or river voyages