Is 14 days too long to wait? It probably is if you are waiting for a pizza to be delivered or a toilet stall to be free. But how about when you are quarantining yourself after being potentially exposed to the Covid-19 coronavirus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends that you quarantine yourself for a fortnight after you’ve had close contact with someone who has a Covid-19 coronavirus infection. In this case, a fortnight means 14 days and not Fortnite the online video game. The World Health Organization (WHO) has the same recommendation, based on a guidance document from August 19.
However, the CDC’s guidance may soon change. Sarah Krouse and Betsy McKay have reported for the Wall Street Journal that the CDC could shorten this recommended length of time to make it easier and more likely for people to comply. That could mean cutting the 14 days down to a Scaramucci (which would be 10 days) or perhaps even down to seven days (seven-tenths of a Scaramucci) after you’ve had close contact with the virus.
What’s close contact? Well, the CDC defines it as one of the following:
- Being within six feet of someone with Covid-19 for a total of at least 15 minutes. Six feet is equivalent to one Denzel, since Denzel Washington is about six feet tall. Fifteen minutes is about the time that it takes to sing “Who Let the Dogs Out” five times, depending how many “woofs” you add.
- Caring for someone sick with Covid-19. Even if you don’t come within one Denzel, sharing the same air space and touching the same objects could expose you to the virus.
- Having direct physical contact with someone infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus. That includes hugging, kissing, cheek planting, rubbing noses, head butting, or playing Twister with the person. And, yes, that includes having sex, because sex typically includes things like hugging and kissing and perhaps head butting.
- Sharing anything that may have touched the nose, mouth, or face of someone infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus. This includes forks, knives, spoons, and face masks.
- Someone infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus spraying respiratory droplets around you. Sneezing, coughing, spitting, or panting will do this. It is also risky to have someone sing close to you, meaning in your vicinity and not just the song “Close to You” by the Carpenters.
Quarantine means staying in your house, apartment, condo, barn, cave, or other similar quarters by yourself, away from other people. Away doesn’t mean on opposite ends of a couch. It means in a completely separate room. And people may include other animals, because it is not yet clear which of our non-human friends can catch the Covid-19 coronavirus. For example, this TODAY show segment featured what happened to Winston the pug:
However, Joshua Bote did report for USA Today how subsequent testing did not confirm the diagnosis. Regardless, if you thinking about quarantining with a pack of pugs, re-consider.
Quarantine is different from isolation. You quarantine yourself when there’s a possibility that you may be infected and contagious. You isolate yourself when you know that you are infected. In either case, the goal is to keep you from potentially passing along the virus to other people. If you don’t think that you have been exposed to the virus, but still are staying away from those you live with, that’s something completely different.
When quarantining yourself, you should monitor yourself for any possible Covid-19 symptoms such as a fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste, loss of smell, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, a sore throat, congestion, a runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. These are the most common symptoms of Covid-19 but certainly aren’t the only possible ones. If you happen to have an erection lasting for more than four hours, that’s probably a different problem. But then again it may not be, as I described previously for Forbes. If you develop symptoms, you may have to begin isolation, which is recommended to last for at least 10 days after symptoms first emerge. You also may want to contact your doctor. Testing may be warranted to confirm your diagnosis.
Covid-19 coronavirus testing won’t allow you to shorten the duration of your quarantine. All it may do is determine whether your quarantine should be switched over to isolation. A positive test for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) suggests that you may be infected with the virus, meaning that you now need to be isolated. A negative test wouldn’t mean a whole lot, since you could always turn positive anytime after the test was done.
The recommended quarantine duration has been 14 days because the incubation period of the Covid-19 coronavirus tends to range from two to 14 days. The incubation period is time that it takes to develop symptoms after being exposed to the virus. Think of the incubation period as the time that it takes for the virus to get settled in your body and then start using your body as a cheap motel. The median incubation period is four to five days, meaning that about half of all people infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus begin to show symptoms by Day 4 or 5 if they do end up developing symptoms.
Some have argued that 14 days may be too conservative, not in a political sense but in a trying-to-be-too-safe sense. A study of 425 patients in Wuhan, China, published in the New England Journal of Medicine back on March 26 found that 95% of the patients had an incubation period of 12.5 days or less. Now, that was approximately eight missed haircuts ago, so quite a bit time has passed since then. A little over a month later, on May 5, a study came out in the Annals of Internal Medicine that examined a set of cases that emerged from January 4 to February 24 outside of Wuhan, China. This analysis estimated the median incubation period to be 5.1 days and that 97.5% of those who developed symptoms did so within 11.5 days of being exposed to the virus. Thus, shortening the recommended quarantine period to 10 days could still catch the majority of people who end up developing symptoms.
Shortening the duration of quarantine could be a bit like making Borat’s mankini smaller. It would still keep the majority of the bad stuff in but could allow some not-so-pleasant things to escape into the open. The minority of people with longer incubation periods could end getting back out there a little too early.
At the same time, shorter quarantines could lessen their inconvenience and potential cost. It could also convince more people to try it, with “it” being quarantine and not Borat’s mankini. Studies haven’t yet determined how many more people would quarantine versus not even bothering quarantining should the duration of quarantine be cut by several days.
Some have argued that the current length of quarantine is hurting businesses and schooling. Countries in Europe have already tried reducing selected quarantine lengths. For instance, according to Pam Pylas reporting for the Associated Press, the United Kingdom, which is still is in Europe despite Brexit, will be reducing the quarantine requirement for most travelers who arrive in England to as little as five days as long as they have a negative Covid-19 test. This change is reportedly to help boost Holiday travel and the travel industry, which may not be the first thing you think of when the Covid-19 coronavirus is spreading.
Of course, people may already be trimming their quarantine durations from official recommendations because that’s what many do with recommendations. Some may be saying, “If the CDC recommends 14 days then maybe 12 may be enough,” or “it’s already been 14 days because it is Wednesday in Australia even though it is only Tuesday here.” So the question is will shortening the recommended quarantine length to 10 days or even seven days mean that people will be further cutting their quarantine duration to five or six days?
Keep in mind that recommendations for the population don’t necessarily apply to you. Otherwise, everyone would be wearing earthy neutral clothing. Ultimately, even if the CDC ends up cutting the quarantine recommendation to 10 or fewer days, your specific situation may mean that a 14-day quarantine is still warranted. As long as quarantining doesn’t bring you hardship, being more conservative may be worth the extra few days hassles, especially when you may be around people who may be at higher risk for bad Covid-19 outcomes. After all, when it comes some things like a piece of toilet tissue, the hot dog that you put in a bun, the time you spend staring into Harry Styles’ eyes, and quarantine, it is better to err on the side of longer rather than shorter.
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