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Self-isolation, quarantine and California's stay-at-home order: What the terms mean and how they differ

Some Bay Area localities have issued shelter-in-place orders. Is it okay to go outside, if you avoid crowds? What precautions should you take?

Posted: Mar 20, 2020 12:21 PM
Updated: Mar 20, 2020 12:21 PM

Isolation, quarantine, shelter in place. These are terms we're hearing a lot of these days, as authorities try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus that's sweeping the United States and the rest of the world.

They're not the same thing, though they all have the goal of keeping others from getting infected. But what do they mean, exactly?

Here are some brief explanations.

Quarantine

This is for people who may have been exposed to the virus. They are asked to stay at home, or as in the case with people who were repatriated from China to the United States, to stay in a provided facility.

They're required to be in quarantine for 14 days. After that, people who still don't test positive for the virus no longer have to be in a contained environment.

Some people may choose or be asked to self-quarantine, meaning they do it voluntarily just because they think they may have been exposed or they are being just cautious.

Governments -- federal, state and local -- can order quarantines, and in fact, those repatriated from China were under a federal quarantine order.

That's only done in extremely rare situations, though. The last time it was ordered on a large scale was during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Isolation

This is for people who actually have the virus or suspect they may be infected.

Those with the virus who need to be hospitalized will be kept in an isolation unit.

People who have been infected with the virus may be asked to self-isolate at home if they have no symptoms or are only mildly ill.

It's important to call your health provider, in any case, if you develop symptoms.

Those in isolation should keep away from other people as much as possible. The CDC recommends that you use a separate bathroom, if available, wear a face mask when around others, and don't share household items.

Shelter in place

Until this week, the term "shelter in place" meant for most people an active shooter situation -- stay where you until the coast is clear.

Now, millions of people in California have been ordered to shelter in place, and other areas may follow.

These people are being asked to stay at home as much as possible, meaning they shouldn't be out unless getting food, gas or other essentials, or for medical reasons.

Health professionals, police, firefighters and other essential service providers are still expected to go to work. And of course, grocery store clerks and gas station attendants are working, too.

Going outside for a walk or exercise is allowed, and even encouraged, in the California counties where the order has been imposed. But people are asked to keep their distance from others.

Answers to some of your top coronavirus questions, every day

It's all about social distancing, and by now, we probably all know that means keeping six feet apart from other people when out and about.

California's stay-at-home order

After multiple counties across California ordered their residents to shelter in place, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday night he was issuing a statewide order for people to stay at home.

The order went into effect Thursday and will remain in place "until further notice," the governor's office said.

This is the first statewide order of its kind in response to the coronavirus.

As far as enforcement, the governor said he didn't believe California residents needed to "be told through law enforcement that it's appropriate just to home isolate and protect themselves."

"There's a social contract here. People I think recognize the need to do more and to meet this moment," Newsom said. "People will self-regulate their behavior, they'll begin to adjust and adapt as they have been quite significantly."

"We will have social pressure that will encourage people to do the right thing," the governor said.

Residents can still go out for essential needs as long as they are practicing social distancing and "common sense," the governor said.

Services including gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, farmer markets, and restaurants (providing only takeout and delivery options) as well as banks and laundromats will remain open, the governor's office said.

"Essential state and local government functions will also remain open, including law enforcement and offices that provide government programs and services," the office said.

Dine-in restaurants, bars, nightclubs, entertainment venues, gyms and fitness studios and convention centers will be closed. Public events and gatherings are also not allowed, the office said.

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1359651

Reported Deaths: 24640
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook54427910087
DuPage903871277
Will75352989
Lake67029987
Kane58265770
Winnebago33136473
Madison30469519
McHenry28511285
St. Clair27822513
Peoria23054306
Champaign20597145
Sangamon18698234
McLean18114178
Tazewell16913283
Rock Island14943313
Kankakee14147210
Kendall1299793
LaSalle12516243
Macon10733198
DeKalb9846119
Vermilion9603132
Adams8439123
Williamson7416129
Whiteside7155171
Boone669472
Ogle609781
Grundy587375
Clinton575590
Coles567694
Knox5543142
Jackson501564
Henry495365
Livingston481585
Stephenson474482
Effingham472972
Woodford472876
Macoupin469082
Marion4471115
Franklin444774
Monroe435693
Jefferson4288120
Lee415952
Randolph412884
Fulton391255
Morgan388781
Logan386258
Bureau371582
Montgomery371474
Christian365773
Fayette316955
Perry316360
Iroquois301366
McDonough283747
Jersey268949
Douglas258635
Saline256354
Lawrence240425
Shelby229537
Union225740
Crawford211626
Bond204624
Cass199025
Jo Daviess180724
Warren179746
Clark179433
Pike178852
Ford177946
Wayne177352
Hancock175731
Carroll175036
Richland174840
Edgar169839
White169426
Washington164025
Moultrie160928
De Witt150824
Mason150545
Piatt149414
Clay148143
Mercer146633
Johnson143715
Greene143633
Wabash134512
Massac133840
Cumberland129019
Menard123312
Jasper115018
Marshall106618
Hamilton83115
Schuyler7526
Brown7046
Pulaski6877
Stark63423
Edwards56812
Henderson52514
Calhoun5182
Putnam4813
Scott4781
Alexander46811
Gallatin4584
Hardin38612
Pope3194
Out of IL20
Unassigned02355

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 731810

Reported Deaths: 13445
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1001261745
Lake53835974
Allen40734678
St. Joseph35782552
Hamilton35659408
Elkhart28633442
Tippecanoe22412219
Vanderburgh22318397
Porter18795308
Johnson17989379
Hendricks17255315
Clark12996191
Madison12688339
Vigo12464247
LaPorte11948211
Monroe11907170
Delaware10710186
Howard9936216
Kosciusko9426117
Hancock8301141
Bartholomew8073156
Warrick7785155
Floyd7670178
Grant7067174
Wayne7056199
Boone6704101
Morgan6582139
Dubois6161117
Marshall6062111
Dearborn581778
Cass5816105
Henry5738103
Noble562284
Jackson502373
Shelby492696
Lawrence4559120
Harrison436272
Gibson435792
DeKalb428885
Clinton427853
Montgomery424289
Whitley396739
Huntington392280
Steuben388657
Miami381967
Knox372090
Jasper366548
Putnam361260
Wabash354480
Adams341754
Ripley339970
Jefferson331281
White314554
Daviess297999
Wells291881
Decatur285492
Fayette281062
Greene279385
Posey271833
LaGrange267470
Scott266654
Clay260347
Washington241332
Randolph240781
Spencer232431
Jennings230149
Starke217054
Fountain212946
Sullivan211942
Owen200856
Jay195830
Fulton195440
Carroll189420
Orange183754
Perry183037
Rush173425
Vermillion169343
Franklin168235
Tipton163045
Parke146416
Blackford135032
Pike134734
Pulaski116845
Newton108034
Brown102341
Crawford100015
Benton98814
Martin89215
Warren82115
Switzerland7918
Union71010
Ohio56811
Unassigned0417