Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, state epidemiologist with the Arkansas Department of Health, joined Gov. Asa Hutchinson at his daily COVID-19 press conference in Russellville today to provide an update. She also explained the difference between isolation and quarantine associated with the virus.
“When we talk about testing, I want people to know when people get tested that they should isolate themselves until they get the result,” Dillaha said. “That is different than getting tested and waiting until you get the result to get isolated because people, if they are positive, then they may spread COVID-19 while waiting for the results.”
Isolation refers to an individual who is sick or tested positive for COVID-19 and should stay away from others, even in the same household, to prevent further transmission, whereas quarantine refers to an individual who has potentially been exposed to the virus and does not know if the disease will develop or not.
According to Dillaha, individuals who have tested positive without any symptoms or those with mild to moderate symptoms should isolate for 10 days. In contrast, individuals who have tested positive with more severe symptoms and a weakened immune system or those hospitalized should isolate for at least 20 days.
“The reason for this is the CDC has looked at studies and people are not known to shed the virus after about 10 days when they have mild to moderate illness,” she said. “But people who have had moderate to severe or weakened immune systems can shed the virus for a longer period of time, so they need to be isolated for 20 days.”
If someone has potentially been exposed to the virus and needs to quarantine, then the CDC recommends 14 days.
“Those people need to remain away from other people for 14 days because we know that it can take up to 14 days for someone to develop the illness,” said Dillaha.
While isolation and quarantine are not the same, Dillaha pointed out that “the activities that someone would take would essentially be the same.”
If they are isolating at home, they should be in a room to themselves with no one else entering the room while they are there. If they go into a room with someone else in the household, then they need to have a face covering and stay six-feet distance,” she said. “It’s the same way if someone is quarantining at home. They should be quarantining separate from anyone else in the household — no contact.”
The Arkansas Department of Health offers the COVID-19 quarantine isolation facility and services for individuals who need help while in quarantine or isolation.