Self-Quarantine and Self-Isolation: Clarifying Resident Responsibility, Pet Care, and Release
The terms self-quarantine and self-isolation have slightly different meanings, though the bottom line is the same: stay home (but now we are saying “stay home” with even more seriousness than we’re generally saying “stay home” nowadays). Self-quarantine involves staying at home and away from others because a person has been exposed to a disease and we must allow a period of time to pass to see if they become sick. It is important to quarantine following known exposure because individuals with COVID-19 infection are likely contagious for days before displaying symptoms. Self-isolation involves staying home and separating oneself from others (including housemates, to the extent possible) because one is already sick.
Residents who are directly asked by a Deerfield staff member to remain self-quarantined or self-isolated to their residence must do so. In a setting of congregate living for persons of high risk for severe syndromes of COVID-19, this is not optional. Spouses and roommates of individuals with COVID-19-like illness or exposure must also self-quarantine/isolate. In accordance with CDC and veterinary group guidance, dogs must remain indoors, too, when owners are undergoing self-quarantine/isolation. To this end, if you have a pet dog, I recommend that you begin efforts to train your dog to “potty” indoors using “potty pads” or newspaper; if this would not be feasible, you should make a plan for boarding or having a friend or family member (off campus, whenever possible) temporarily assume care for your pet.
The duration of self-quarantine is based on CDC recommendations (which continue to change along with our understanding of COVID-19). The duration of self-isolation is informed by CDC recommendations but will be determined by Deerfield nursing in collaboration with the Buncombe County Health Department on a case-by-case basis. Should you require self-quarantine or self-isolation, a Deerfield nurse will remain in frequent contact with you to help monitor your symptoms, triage any clinical issues that may arise, and answer any questions. It is critical that all residents understand and trust that a resident’s release from self-quarantine/isolation will only occur when it is safe to do so, based on objective criteria and with the utmost caution and cognizance of Deerfield’s vulnerable population.
Let’s Stop Stigma Before it Starts
It is only natural to have worries, concerns, or anxiety in response to the novel coronavirus that has defined the year 2020 by upending lives and economies the world over. It is important to actively avoid allowing fear to beget social stigma towards friends, neighbors, or members of the community.
It is likely that, by this time next year, we will all know at least one person who has been ill with COVID-19 and survived. We will know many people who observed self-quarantine or self-isolation due to symptoms consistent with or exposure to the virus, whether or not COVID-19 was ever formally tested or diagnosed. Individuals who have confirmed, suspected, or even potential COVID-19 and are in isolation are doing the right thing and helping to protect their friends, neighbors, and community. Individuals who self-quarantine in response to potential exposure to COVID-19 are also doing the right thing, helping to protect their friends, neighbors, and community. Let’s reach out to these people safely while they are quarantined or isolated; telephone calls, text messages, and contact-free deliveries of needed items are great opportunities to maintain connections and offer support during difficult times. And when these folks are safely released from their period of quarantine or isolation, let us welcome them back into our community with a loving spirit.
Stigma arises when the disease and the person with the disease are conflated. Stigma divides and weakens us and hinders public health efforts; if people are fearful about how they will be treated if they come forward to report potential symptoms or exposure, it will be much harder to contain COVID-19 and we will all face greater risk. As humans, the stigmatization and avoidance of people who are ill with potentially contagious disease is an evolved adaptation that aids in our survival as a species. In the year 2020, however, we have the infrastructure, knowledge, and technology necessary to choose not to stigmatize our friends and neighbors and yet still remain safe. We can, and should, make the choice to overcome fear with facts, to replace hostility and judgment with kindness, empathy, and support. Now is the time for solidarity.
Taryn Tindall, RN, on behalf of the Deerfield Leadership Team