How to Quarantine or Isolate When You Have (Or May Have) COVID-19

A fresh surge in COVID-19 infections marked the first weeks of 2022 in the country. Our social media timelines were filled with news of paracetamols going out of stock and loved ones experiencing symptoms and testing positive. The Department of Health (DOH) announced last January 10 that the highly contagious Omicron variant is now the dominant variant of COVID-19, which may explain the steady increase in the number of cases. 

There’s a lot of confusion about quarantine protocols, especially because there’s a range of possible scenarios playing out, from the intensity of exhibited symptoms to vaccination status. It’s important to know exactly what to do when you confirm or suspect infection, for your well-being and the safety of others around you.

Here’s what to remember when you have or may have coronavirus:

If You Test Positive for COVID-19

Regardless of the intensity of your symptoms and your vaccination status, you should isolate. This means even though you don’t feel sick, you must limit your interactions with people and stay in a confined space.

How long should you isolate? 

The DOH recommends different durations for various types of cases:

  • 10 days (or as recommended by the doctor) when you experience mild or moderate symptoms. This also applies to asymptomatic patients. Start the count on the day you tested positive. But if you start to feel sick during your isolation, the count starts on the day you exhibited symptoms.
  • 21 days (or as recommended by the doctor) when you experience severe symptoms. Take note, you should contact your local health facility immediately when you experience shortness of breath and exhibit unstable vital signs. If you’re over 60 years old and have existing health conditions, you should also notify health professionals right away. In these cases, patients are vulnerable to developing severe infection, which is why proper and urgent care matters.

How should you prepare for home isolation?

If you’re isolating at home, you should have your own bedroom and bathroom. No other people in your household must use these areas to avoid the spread of illness. For the safety of people caring for you during this time, you must:

  • Wear a mask and sanitize your hands whenever you interact with them, such as when getting food.
  • Let family members leave food, medicine, and other essentials outside your room’s door.
  • Avoid sharing personal items with family members, namely plates, utensils, and towels.

In some cases, those who test positive for COVID-19 are required to be in isolation facilities. This largely depends on the protocols of the local government unit. If you need to stay in a facility outside your home, pack clothes, toiletries, eating utensils, and medicines.

If You’re a Close Contact

The DOH defines a close contact as someone who:

  • Interacted with a person with COVID-19 within one meter for more than 15 minutes 
  • Had direct physical interaction with probable or confirmed COVID-19 case 
  • Had interaction with a person with COVID-19 without wearing protective equipment

If you’re a close contact, you need to quarantine yourself as a precautionary measure. The assumption is you’ve been exposed to the virus and therefore must limit interactions with people to curb transmission.

How long should you quarantine?

According to DOH’s quarantine protocols, those who are fully vaccinated must quarantine for 7 days from last exposure. For those who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, the required duration is 14 days.

When should you get tested?

Since it’s only a suspected infection, you need to undergo testing to confirm. If you’re already experiencing symptoms, you can get tested right away. It’s important to quarantine while waiting for the results. On the other hand, if you don’t feel sick, wait for 5 to 7 days after the last exposure before getting tested. Testing may not detect coronavirus during the first few days of infection.

Here’s what you should do after getting results:

  • Antigen positive: Follow the isolation protocols mentioned above when you have symptoms or are exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 patient.
  • Antigen negative: Have confirmatory RT-PCR testing immediately when you have symptoms, on the 5th day after exposure when you don’t feel sick.
  • RT-PCR positive: Follow the isolation protocols mentioned above.
  • RT-PCR negative: Follow the quarantine duration the DOH recommended.

It’s important to know the proper health measures when you have COVID-19. Refer to this guide when quarantining or isolating. As always, do your part in flattening the curve by wearing masks, washing your hands regularly, and getting vaccinated.

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Photo via DepositPhotos

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