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Cononavirus and COVID-19 Information for California

Trustworthy information about COVID-19

What is Social Isolation? Self-Quarantine?

To slow down the spread of coronaviruses, we are asked to "socially distance" ourselves, and to "self-quarantine" if it's possible that we have been in contact with the novel coronavirus. What do these terms mean, exactly? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control gives these definitions in an Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment on March 7, 2020:

"Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible."

"Congregate settings are crowded public places where close contact with others may occur, such as shopping centers, movie theaters, stadiums."

"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 in general 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."

If I suspect I have been exposed, for how long should I stay isolated?

An analysis of people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and who had a known time of exposure found that 97% of those cases had an incubation period - the time between exposure and when symptoms appear - of 12 days or fewer. (On average, symptoms showed up around day 5.). Current recommendations for quarantine or isolation for people who suspected they were infected is 14 days. 

Advice for Individuals to Slow the Spread of Coronaviruses

Recommendations for all of us:

Current thinking is that the people most at risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19 are older (50+), have chronic health issues (heart condition, lung disease, diabetes), or compromised immune systems. See the section below fon this webpage for advice to people in those higher-risk groups.


What about face masks? The World Health Organization advises:

Disinfectants and Hand Sanitizers

We've all heard the advice to "wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds". Some even have lists of songs that are at least 20 seconds long to use to in timing how long to wash.

But what about washing surfaces in our homes, schools, or offices? What about times when there are no sinks available for handwashing? The most effective disinfectants against the novel coronavirus are solutions that use bleach or alcohol. (But remember not to mix bleach with other cleansers!)

disinfectants chart


As an alternative to ready-made disinfectants, these DIY solutions are recommended by reputable sources. (Note: disinfectant solutions intended for flood cleanup are also effective against coronavirus. Ignore the instructions to through away porous objects, however, and the instructions against mold or mildew.)

If needed, here are directions for how to use a mask or disposable gloves safely:

Coping with Social Isolation and Shelter in Place Orders

Isolating yourself for a length of time is often difficult and stressful for individuals and families. It can be especially problematic for folks with high anxiety, other mental health issues, or issues with substance abuse. These resources can help:


Parents of school-age children may find this advice helpful for explaining COVID-19 to their kids:

A Bay Area NPR affiliate, KQED, has published a comic to inform kids about coronavirus and other similarly-communicable diseases. Available in English and in Chinese, it can be viewed on screen or printed and folded into a zine.

Advice for People with a Higher Risk for Severe Illness

People who:

  • have a chronic health issue (heart conditions, lung disease, diabetes, or other serious illness); or
  • have compromised immune systems (due to another disease, to smoking, or to medical treatments like chemotherapy); or
  • are aged 50 or older (risk increases with age, so the riskiest age group is 80+); or
  • have less access to healthcare

run the risk of more severe illness if they become infected by the novel coronavirus. (People who smoke (including those who vape), this would be a good time to quit, if you can. Smokers who already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity could be at increased risk of serious illness. )

People at a higher risk, and their care partners, here's what you can do to lower the risk of serious disease:

If You or Someone in your Household has - or is Suspected to Have - a COVID-19 Infection

Until the time that coronavirus test kits are more widely available, it's recommended that people who have symptoms that fit the profile of COVID-19 disease

a) communicate with a doctor ASAP, if possible, to assess the severity of their symptoms; 

b) self-quarantine for at least 14 days, and

c) clean and disinfect key areas of their home.

People who are at risk for severe disease if they should be infected are also advised to self-quarantine, cleaning and/or disinfecting daily. The people who live with them, or are in close contact with them, should practice isolation as well.

Advice on Travel

COVID-19 is pandemic, according to the World Health Organization, with people infected all over the world.

To slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control publishes updates, recommendations for travelers, and news about travel restrictions.

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