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Clearing the Air: Quarantine vs. Isolation

Similarities and differences between quarantine and isolation

A summary of the similarities and differences between quarantine and isolation

ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait --

Members assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group have worked tirelessly to curtail the spread of COVID-19 here for the last several months by providing care and guidance to the thousands of armed forces members serving the area.

Continual personnel rotations and everchanging policies have, understandably, led to misconceptions when it comes to quarantine regulations. The most important aspect of COVID-19 quarantine assessments is: every case is different.

“When it comes to COVID-19, I think we forget that it’s not about us; it’s about everyone else,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Brydon Manning, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group operational and medical readiness flight commander. “I think one of the problems we have is that people look at (quarantine) as a tax or a time frame that has to be paid but it’s really about combatting virus spread, not about time spent. We have to think about what it is we are doing to our Wingmen and our colleagues and how our decisions affect others.”

According to Manning, confusion lies between the 14-day quarantine requirement and the 10-day isolation period.

Here are the basics:

14-day quarantine

  • For individuals who arrived from U.S. and did not quarantine prior to arrival
  • For individuals who were named as a close contact of someone who has COVID-19
  • Fulfills two incubation cycles of the virus to ensure the individual does not become sick
  • Also known as an administrative or operational quarantine for individuals who came from a high-risk location

10-day isolation

  • For individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19
  • For individuals who are sick or symptomatic for COVID-19
  • It is the minimum time frame for resolution of symptoms in order to be cleared by medical personnel as no longer contagious

Since possible exposures are treated on a case-by-case basis, quarantine and isolation times can vary for each person. Environmental circumstances and symptoms, or lack thereof, heavily influence how long an individual will be monitored.

“The 14-day quarantine is for well people who have been potentially exposed and we use this time to monitor if symptoms occur,” Manning said. “If a person that is on a 14-day quarantine becomes symptomatic then they would switch from quarantine to isolation and that’s when the 10-day time frame begins. It’s all based on the last time you were exposed or potentially exposed.”

Manning explained the importance of continuing to adhere to current face-mask and social distancing policy.

“The virus can spread really fast and within a few days of not following (Health Protection Condition) measures, entire capabilities of the Air Force can be suspended,” Manning continued. “We have thousands of people come through here every week and we feed the rest of the (area of responsibility.) The efforts we do here are important and other countries rely on the guarantee that we’re doing our part to keep from spreading the virus in their country. Our COVID-19 operations are paramount to making sure we accomplish our mission.”

If you are not feeling well or believe you have been possibly exposed to COVID-19, report to 386th EMEDS clinic for an evaluation by a provider.