Is There a New COVID-19 Quarantine Period?

Sep 30 • 2020
Is There a New COVID-19 Quarantine Period

Q&A With Dr. Stephen Threlkeld: When and How Long Should You Quarantine?

Quarantine refers to the practice of isolating individuals who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 to determine whether they develop symptoms or test positive for the disease. We talked with Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who works with Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, to help you understand COVID-19 quarantine guidelines.

Q: Is there a new COVID-19 quarantine period?

A: No, there is not a new quarantine or isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19. The Tennessee Department of Health issued a document on August 19 that explains quarantine release guidelines and the recommended isolation period for cases, household contacts and non-household contacts. However, the language in this document may be slightly confusing to some Mid-South residents. It’s important to read the fine print, as well as the main print on the document.

Q: Do people need to quarantine for 24 days?

A: People who test positive must quarantine for a minimum of 10 days after onset of the disease and can be released after they are without fever for 24 hours and show improvement in symptoms.

The Tennessee Department of Health document states that some people must be prepared to quarantine for 24 days. That assumes that you live with someone who tested positive and from whom you cannot separate in a house. This is called a household contact.

Q: What does the term household contact mean?

A: You are considered a household contact if you share any living spaces—such as a bathroom, bedroom, living room or kitchen—with a person who has tested positive. Household contacts must quarantine for 14 days after the last possible exposure that could cause infection. That last exposure is 10 days from the start of the infected person’s symptoms.

For example, you may live with a spouse or other family member who tests positive and with whom you share living spaces, such as one bathroom or one bedroom. You may not be able to physically isolate from that person within your household. Your 14-day quarantine would start after your spouse or family member has completed his or her own 10-day quarantine.

Q: Who is affected?

A: The 24-day isolation period affects household contacts, or people who are living with a person who tests positive from whom they cannot physically isolate. Unfortunately, some people missed the fine print and thought everyone must quarantine for 21 to 24 days. But that’s not true.

Q: What happens if you can separate from household members during their isolation?

A: Non-household contacts must quarantine for 14 days after the date of last exposure, regardless of whether the person who tested positive was symptomatic. Exposure means contact with a person during the time period beginning two days prior to that person’s symptom onset (or specimen collection date if the person is asymptomatic) through the end of that person’s isolation period.

To be considered a non-household contact:

  • The person must never be in the same room as household members.
  • The person cannot share plates, cups, dishes or phones with others.
  • The person should have his or her own bathroom. If that isn’t possible, the household must conduct daily cleaning.

Q: How can people stay up to date with COVID-19 changes?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is the most current source for information about COVID-19 recommendations and guidelines.

Visit our website to learn more about COVID-19. Find a doctor by visiting our Find a Doctor page.