Isolation and quarantine updated guidance
GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – It can be understandably confusing for people to follow the requirements of quarantine and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine takes place when an individual has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 but is experiencing no symptoms. Isolation occurs when an individual is exhibiting symptoms of illness (or has tested positive for COVID-19). Garfield County Public Health is offering new guidance on what these terms have in common and what separates the two.
“Though COVID-19 has been with us since March, we know that most people don’t grasp its implications until they are directly impacted,” said Garfield County Public Health Nurse, Rachel Kappler. “Often, it isn’t until we are faced with the problem of how to actually isolate or quarantine that we really have to figure it out. Also, each situation can be a little different, so it’s important to know what to do and where to go for accurate information if you find yourself exposed to someone with COVID-19.”
Precautions you should take under BOTH quarantine and isolation:
- Do not wait for Garfield County Public Health to contact you to begin isolation or quarantine. Public health may not be able to contact you in a timely manner due to capacity.
- If you test positive for the COVID-19 virus, you may receive an email from public health to complete a “self-report” form. Please follow the link in the email and complete the form in a timely manner.
- If you have COVID-19 symptoms, get tested within 1-2 days.
- Isolate while waiting for test results to come back.
- You may still be told to isolate or quarantine even if you have a negative test, depending on the situation. Sometimes tests yield false results, therefore, follow your physician or public health’s recommendations.
In either case, visit the Garfield County isolation and quarantine web page for more information.
Precautions you should take while in quarantine
- Quarantine applies to people who are not sick but are at risk of becoming ill because they have been exposed to a person who has COVID-19. If you have been exposed (within 6 feet of the person and longer than 15 minutes), you need to quarantine for 14 days beginning on the last day you were exposed.
- If at any point in quarantine you develop symptoms of illness, get tested for COVID-19, and follow isolation guidance. Most symptoms of COVID-19 in the beginning can feel like a common cold and can be mild. Common symptoms in the first few days of illness can be a headache, fatigue, body aches, runny nose, and congestion.
- Even with a negative COVID test, you still need to quarantine for 14 days as the virus can take up to 14 days before making someone sick after close exposure.
- If you live with a person who has COVID-19 and you cannot fully separate from them, you must wait until they complete their isolation period to begin your own quarantine. This can mean that you are in isolation/quarantine for up to 24 or more days.
- In some cases, some individuals may discontinue quarantine before 14 days for the specific categories of work, medical visits and essential needs. This still does not clear people to resume social or non-essential activities and the following criteria must be met:
To discontinue quarantine after 7 days:
- You must have no symptoms on day 7 into quarantine AND
- have a negative molecular test result on day 7 in quarantine, then you may resume essential activities on day 8.
To discontinue quarantine after 10 days:
- You must have no symptoms on day 10 of quarantine, on day 11 you may resume essential activities ONLY.
Remember, people exposed to COVID-19 are STILL at risk of developing symptoms up to 14 days after an exposure. The risk exists even if you meet criteria to discontinue quarantine at day 7 or day 10.
*School-aged children in Garfield County are not eligible for a 7-day modified quarantine option.
Precautions to take while in isolation
Isolation is used to separate people who are sick and/or people who have tested positive for COVID-19 from individuals who are not sick. You should be in isolation (stay away from others) until:
- You have had no fever for at least 24 hours (without using medicine that reduces fevers)
- Symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
- At least 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared
If you tested positive and have no symptoms, you should be in isolation for 10 days starting with the date of your positive test. The reason you still need to isolate despite not having symptoms, is because you are contagious and can spread the virus to others.
Common questions from people who have recovered from COVID-19
Do I have immunity from the virus and for how long?
At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person.
Should I still get the COVID vaccine, even if I had COVID?
Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that you can be re-infected with a different strain of the virus, you should get vaccinated when it becomes available. The COVID-19 vaccine was created to protect against multiple strains (or mutations) of the COVID-19 virus. This is similar in the way that there are multiple strains of influenza that circulate each year.
Do I still have to wear a mask and social distance?
Yes.It will take time after the vaccination for your body to respond and make enough antibodies to protect you. This could take up to two weeks after your last dose.
Current information suggests that it is possible for someone who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 to still have a mild or asymptomatic infection. They may also still spread the virus to others. It is important to continue taking precautions. Continue wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing until it is safe to stop.
Individuals that get COVID-19 virus are contagious two days before they develop symptoms of illness. Wearing a mask can prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to loved ones before you realize you are sick. In individuals that have COVID-19, most are spreading the virus to their close contacts before they have symptoms (or without ever developing symptoms). This is one reason why COVID-19 virus is difficult to contain.
More contact tracers available
Garfield County has hired additional staff to conduct contact tracing to help keep up with an increase in cases this winter.
“Up until recently, there were more than 700 people who received a positive COVID-19 test result
s and required follow-up calls from Garfield County contact tracers. In mid-November and December, we were getting more than 100 new cases each day, making timely follow-up nearly impossible,” Kappler added. “We’ve now hired more contact tracers and have a new system for case investigations and contact tracing. We are prioritizing outbreaks and certain populations, such as long-term care facilities and schools. With our new approach and new staff, we will have a strategic process for reaching everyone with the information they need.”
COVID testing and vaccine information and data available online
Garfield County Public Health is posting frequent updates in the news media, on Facebook @garfieldhealth, and on our website on the COVID & Public Health page. To navigate to the COVID & Public Health page from the main Garfield County site, click the red COVID & Public Health rectangle at the top of the page. Sign up to be notified about Garfield County COVID news at garfieldcounty.net.