Understand Isolation and Quarantine

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe the purpose of isolation.
  • Describe the purpose of quarantine.
  • Identify the dates that a case’s isolation period should begin and end.
  • Identify the dates that a contact’s quarantine period should begin and end.

What Comes After Contact Tracing?

Contact tracing and case investigation alone are not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Watch this video from Karen White, part of the UCSF Pandemic Initiative for Equity and Action, in which she defines isolation and quarantine and outlines how they are applied to cases and contacts. 

The exercise below and the quiz at the end of this unit ask questions about the content of this video. Be sure to watch the video so you get the information you need to answer the questions. You can find a link to download the presentation slides in the Resources section at the end of this unit. The slides also include content that is presented in the next unit.

Since this video was filmed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its quarantine guidelines for people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 (contacts). If a contact doesn’t report any symptoms, their quarantine can end after 10 days. If a contact doesn’t report any symptoms and tests negative for COVID-19, their quarantine can end after 7 days. See the resources section for more information.

Let’s Review

Ready to apply what you just learned? The sample tool below is not scored—it’s just an easy way to quiz yourself. To use it, read the scenario, then click the answer you think is correct. Click Submit, and you get a popup telling you whether the answer you chose is correct or incorrect, and why. When you reach the end, you can review the answers or retake the questions.

Scenario 1

Scenario 2

Scenario 3


Quiz Scenario

This scenario prepares you for the multiple-choice questions below. Make sure you also review the most up-to-date CDC guidelines, which you can find the Resources section. 

A family of five lives in a one-bedroom apartment. The father is the case, and he is isolating in the one bedroom. The rest of the family is contacted by contact tracers, but they are not symptomatic.