Here Are the Differences Between Quarantine, Isolation and Social Distancing

We live in strange times, and most of us have started regularly using terms that are either entirely new or that we'd only heard before in movies.

While many of us have casually talked about being in quarantine or isolation, is that what we're really doing? Technically, these are all different things with their own nuances and meanings. While it might not matter much in actual conversation, here's what each of the terms means if you're going for accuracy.


When you've been asked to stay home and avoid going outside, it can feel like you're in quarantine, but that's not what the term actually means. Instead, quarantine is what you do when you've been exposed to the disease but are asymptomatic and untested. That seclusion prevents you from potentially infecting others while you're not sure if the disease will develop, and allows people to be prepared in case symptoms do show up.


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"Isolation" may not be the best term because it's vague and means so many things, but in a medical context, it means that you're staying home because you're positive with the disease, and you don't want to spread it to other people. People in isolation should not leave the house, and should have their own spaces if they live with others (including bedroom, bathroom and eating space), so they don't get anyone else sick.


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Social Distancing

Most of us are currently practicing social distancing, also known as physical distancing. That means not going out unnecessarily, staying at least six feet away from others when we leave home, and avoiding crowds and large gatherings of people. This not only prevents us from getting exposed to the disease, but also keeps us from spreading it to others if we unknowingly contract it—it's one of the best things we can do to stop the spread of coronavirus.


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Want to learn what else you can do? Click HERE for a doctor's top dos and don'ts for life in the age of coronavirus.