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Importance of isolation and quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19
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EDITORIAL

Importance of isolation and quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19

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The COVID-19 Delta variant is highly contagious, causing significant sickness, hospitalizations and death, especially for those who are unvaccinated. The role of the Iredell County Health Department is to protect residents from threats to their health and safety. Public health, at its core, is about disease prevention and works to limit the impact of disease once it has occurred. Public health is of critical importance now more than ever as the world continues to try to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Key strategies in stopping the continuous spread of the virus are the use of isolation and quarantine as control measures. Isolation and quarantine are tried and true methods of protecting the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.

Isolation separates sick people suspected or confirmed as having a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease in order to prevent further spreading.

Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quarantine procedures call for a quarantine period of 14 days. However, based on local circumstances and resources, the CDC will allow the following options to shorten quarantine periods:

Quarantine can end after day 10 without testing and if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring. With this strategy, residual post-quarantine transmission risk is estimated to be about 1% with an upper limit of about 10%.

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When diagnostic testing resources are sufficient and available, quarantine can end after day 7 if a diagnostic specimen tests negative and if no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring. The specimen may be collected and tested within 48 hours before the time of planned quarantine discontinuation (e.g., in anticipation of testing delays), but quarantine cannot be discontinued earlier than after day 7. With this strategy, the residual post-quarantine transmission risk is estimated to be about 5% with an upper limit of about 12%.

In both cases, additional criteria such as continued symptom monitoring and masking through day 14 must be met.

Under current guidance, individuals who are fully vaccinated and remain asymptomatic (no symptoms) are not required to quarantine after being identified as a close contact. They should get tested 3-5 days after exposure and wear a mask around others until receiving a negative test result.

Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past three months and recovered do not have to quarantine as long as they remain without symptoms.

In a child care facility or K-12 school in North Carolina, if masks were being worn appropriately and consistently by the student with COVID-19 and the potentially exposed student, the exposed student will not have to quarantine as long as they remain without symptoms. This quarantine exemption does not apply to exposures during extracurricular or athletic activities nor does this exemption apply to teachers, staff or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.

Communicable disease rules in North Carolina are not developed or altered at the local level. Each health department and local health director is statutorily required to follow these scientific and evidence-based rules and guidelines.

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, we plead with community members to follow quarantine and isolation procedures, wear a mask while indoors if you are unable to social distance, and get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Remember to wash your hands often and disinfect commonly touched areas like light switches and door knobs. Should you or a member of your family become symptomatic, please remove the symptomatic individual from the child care, school or work environment immediately. Layering these prevention strategies is the most effective way to protect an individual’s health and the health of their loved ones.

If you have any questions, please call the Iredell County Health Department COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 704-878-5300 and then press 1.

Provided by the Iredell County Health Department.

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