Submitted by: Whatcom County Health Department
As a recent Whatcom Unified Command press release announced, an isolation and quarantine facility is being established for individuals who cannot safely remain in their homes or who may not have the resources to stay safe. These strategies are effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19 and are used in different scenarios to protect the public’s health and vulnerable individuals in our communities. Here’s a rundown of when each of these strategies are used, who they impact, and how they differ.
Stay Home, Stay Healthy
On March 23rd, Governor Inslee announced a Stay Home, Stay Healthy Executive Order as a mitigation strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. This strategy requires all Washingtonians to stay home except while doing essential activities, such as grocery shopping or working in a job deemed essential by the Washington state. Currently, all gatherings of people are prohibited, and all businesses must close unless designated as essential by Washington State. On April 2nd, this order was extended until May 4th, 2020. To learn more about what this order means, see our website.
Self-Quarantine is a containment strategy used to slow the spread of COVID-19 from individuals who are close contacts of a lab-confirmed case. A close contact is currently defined by the Washington State Department of Health as being within 6 feet of a confirmed case for 10 minutes or more. Through our Health Department’s disease investigation process, we inform close contacts about their potential exposure and provide instructions about how to prevent infecting others in our community. We advise close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases to self-quarantine for 14 days. Self-Quarantine is for close contacts who feel healthy and are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. When used effectively, self-quarantine ensures that close-contacts do not spread the virus to others. After an exposure with a confirmed case, some people may never develop symptoms of COVID-19, while others may be contagious before they develop symptoms.
Self-quarantine means remaining at home and limiting your interactions with others for 14 days, or until symptoms develop. If you develop symptoms, self-isolate. Follow these recommendations for self-quarantining:
- Stay home from work and avoid going to the grocery store or pharmacy. If you need supplies, try using a grocery delivery service, having any medications mailed to you, or having a friend, neighbor, or household member pick them up and deliver them safely. If you must go out, follow all recommendations for wearing a cloth face covering and maintain an appropriate physical distance from others.
- Self-quarantine in a separate room and isolate from other household members as much as possible. Wear a cloth face covering when you are in the same room and stay at least 6 feet away from others. Avoid sharing household items like towels and utensils.
- Monitor your health and check for fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit twice a day. This means taking your temperature in the morning, midday and/or evening. Keep a record of your temperature so you can keep track of any changes. Also note when you are feeling feverish, even if your temperature is not above 100.4.
- Discontinue self-quarantine after 14 days after exposure if you do not develop any symptoms. If you develop symptoms, self-isolate, explained next, to prevent the spread of disease.
Self-isolation is a containment strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19. Any individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate to protect those around them and prevent the spread of disease. Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, shortness of breath, and fever.
If you become sick with symptoms of COVID-19, regardless if you have been tested, you should follow these recommendations for self-isolation:
- Stay home throughout the duration of your illness, except to get medical care. Most people with COVID-19 are able to recover at home without medical care.
- Stay in touch with your doctor. Call your healthcare provider before going in. If you are having an emergency, call 911.
- Stay in a separate room and limit contact with others, including housemates. Use a separate bathroom, if available.
- Avoid sharing personal household items, like dishes, drinking glasses, towels, and bedding with other people in your home. After their use, wash these items thoroughly with soap and water.
- Clean and disinfect frequently contacted surfaces regularly, especially any shared spaces.
- You can discontinue isolation when:
- You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (3 days) AND
- Other symptoms have improved (for example, you no longer have a cough) AND
- At least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.
- Visit the CDC website for more information about what you do if you are sick.
While these strategies may be slightly different, they are effective tools to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Whatcom County.