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Coronavirus: Information on Home Isolation

Written by Lauren Smaldone, ANP

The next layer of protection.

We are continuing to learn about the new coronavirus and the disease it causes, referred to as COVID-19 or the coronavirus disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all Americans be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their community.

At this time, there is no vaccine or medication available for COVID-19. The best course of action is to practice individual and community-based strategies to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus and to reduce overall illness and death. Slowing down the spread of the disease also helps to protect individuals who are at increased risk for severe illness, such as older adults and those with underlying health conditions.

Even if you aren’t worried about your own health, efforts taken by all of us can help reduce the transmission of the coronavirus to the most vulnerable people among us.

We talked about some of the ways you can keep yourself healthy in this article and how you can use social distancing (staying away from crowds, avoiding close contact with others) to help reduce transmission of the coronavirus in your community here.

Now let’s discuss when it is appropriate to increase precautions to home isolation.

Who qualifies for home isolation?

According to the CDC, people who qualify for home isolation include:

  • People with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 (including persons who are being tested for COVID-19) who do not need to be hospitalized.
  • People with confirmed COVID-19 who were hospitalized and determined to be medically stable to go home.

If home isolation is recommended, what do I need to do?

  • Restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas.
  • Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Stay in a specific room and away from other people at home. Also, use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) or pets and before entering a healthcare provider’s office. If you are unable to wear a facemask (e.g., because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live with you should not stay in the same room with you, or they should wear a facemask if they enter your room.
  • If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
  • Continue to follow the same precautions prior to isolation:
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Throw used tissues in a lined trash can. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or, if soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Why is home isolation important?

People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate themselves at home during their illness. According to the CDC, this strategy may help prevent COVID-19 from spreading to other people in their homes and in their community. Please take advantage of HeyDoctor’s free screening to evaluate your level of risk.

What if I feel worse and I am isolated at home?

Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing). Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19. Put on a facemask before you enter the facility. These steps will help the healthcare provider’s office to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed. Ask your healthcare provider to call the local or state health department.

If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19. If possible, put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive.

When is it OK to stop home isolation?

Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk to others is thought to be low. The decision to stop home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.

The bottom line

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless in a period of uncertainty like this one, but small steps taken by individuals and communities have a large impact to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Continue to check in with the CDC or your state’s health department website (listed below) for the most up-to-date information on how to stay safe.

State resources

Find your state department of health website below.

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The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HeyDoctor, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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