What Are the Differences Between Social Distancing, Self-Quarantining and Self-Isolating?
As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re facing a barrage of near-constant information — and a ton of misinformation. Be it the advice of medical experts or the guidelines being set forth by your local and federal government officials, it all feels important to take in, which can overwhelm even the most detail-oriented individuals among us.
However, if we want to fully understand what’s going on, it’s important to get the terminology right. Although some brush off word choice as "just semantics," correctly defining terms like "social distancing" and "self-isolating" matters. After all, a lack of specificity can lead to misinformation — and that inaccuracy can breed panic. Here’s a quick guide to some of the pandemic-related terms you’ll be hearing over the next few weeks.
Social Distancing, Self-Monitoring and Self-Quarantining
Amid the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines for "community mitigation strategies" — essentially, ways to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). One of the most effective ways to thwart the proliferation of the virus is to practice social distancing, but many are confused about what that term means. Epidemiologists use the term social distancing to refer to the conscious effort taken by individuals to reduce close contact between themselves and others, which will prevent community transmission of the virus.
Self-Isolation, Shelter-in-Place and Quarantine
The next term on our list is "self-isolation." In this scenario, you have tested positive for the virus and must take even more precautions than you would when self-quarantining. Whether at home or in a hospital, you should essentially eliminate contact with others. If you have to travel between home and a treatment center, wearing a mask is crucial to protect others from the virus-containing droplets you’re liable to spread.