Physical Distancing, Isolation, and Quarantine

An explanation of the differences between physical distancing, isolation, and quarantine

Physical (Social) Distancing

Physical distancing, also called social distancing, means staying home and remaining out of congregate settings (gathering in a large group for a prolonged period of time), avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet—or 2 meters) from others when possible.


Isolation means the separation of a person or group of people known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease and potentially infectious from those who are not infected to prevent spread of the communicable disease. Isolation for public health purposes may be voluntary or compelled by federal, state, or local public health order.


Quarantine means the separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease.

What to do you have received a recommendation to isolate or quarantine

Please refer to the following guides:

Isolation Guides

Quarantine Guides

a diagram of nested circles illustrating persons with COVID-19 and  people once and twice removed from them

Second degree contacts are people who spend time around someone who had direct contact or are once removed from a direct contact. They do not need to isolate or quarantine.