Social Isolation, Social Distancing, & Quarantine; What’s the Difference?

Social Isolation, Social Distancing, & Quarantine; What’s the Difference?

Social isolation, social distancing, and quarantine; not a day goes by where we do not hear these phrases in context to COVID-19. Officials are urging people to stay home in order to help flatten the curve, stating that quarantine and social isolation are key in lowering the number of COVID-19 cases. 

Although we hear these terms daily, do we truly know the difference between the three? 

Social Isolation

Social isolation is best described as separating healthy people from individuals who are infected with a contagious disease. Those who are healthy avoid going out in public as much as possible to reduce their own risk of catching the disease. Most recently, companies have ordered employees to work from home, or telework, to help promote social isolation. To avoid the spread of COVID-19, we are urged to stay inside our homes if possible. Beaches, gyms, restaurants, malls, and schools have all closed as a precaution to COVID-19 and to help urge the public to partake in social isolation. 


Quarantine is when those who have been exposed to an infectious disease are separated from all other individuals. Unlike social isolation, quarantine can be mandated by government officials, especially if someone has recently traveled. For COVID-19 it is recommended that anyone who has possibly been exposed quarantine themselves for 14 days. This requires not leaving your house or a designated room if you live with others. When around others extreme sanitation measures should be taken. 

Social Distancing

If you must go out in public, it is recommended you practice social distancing. The CDC describes social distancing as maintaining a distance of 6 feet from other individuals when possible, and avoiding mass gatherings. Due to the fact that COVID-19 is spread by contaminated respiratory droplets it is important to not stand closely to others. Government officials suggest avoiding gatherings that consist of more than 10 people. 

Doing your part to help

In this global pandemic, it is important that we come together as a society to help slow down the spread of COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages people to “Do the Five”:

  1. HANDS: Wash Them Often
  2. ELBOW: Cough into It
  3. FACE: Don’t Touch It
  4. SPACE: Keep Safe Distance
  5. HOME: Stay If You Can 

For more information on protective measures and advice on COVID-19 visit the WHO website

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