As more schools, businesses and events are shutting down to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the ask of health officials to Canadians has remained the same: wash your hands and, when possible, practice social distancing and stay home.
Staying home is one of the best ways to avoid the spread of the virus, protecting not only yourself but also other people in your community. If you tested positive for COVID-19, are symptomatic, have come into contact with someone with the virus, or have travelled overseas in the last two weeks, isolating yourself is especially critical.
This could include isolating yourself within your home as well, if you live with other people.
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re self-isolating.
Limit your excursions
You should not leave your home except to receive medical care, according to Ottawa Public Health. In addition to remaining at home, you should also not have visitors over. You can have friends, family or neighbours drop off groceries or supplies at the front door, though.
Isolate within your home
Ottawa Public Health recommends anyone in your home who is not providing care should make arrangements to live somewhere else until your period of self-isolation ends. If this is not possible, you should separate yourself when you can, including staying and sleeping in a different room and using a separate washroom. At the very least, it is advised to stay two metres away from anyone in your home.
Watch out for what you touch
Shared spaces should have good airflow, ideally with open windows where possible, according to Public Health Ontario.
Because the novel coronavirus can live on surfaces for anywhere from hours to days, you should also avoid sharing any household items, and wash items with soap and warm water after each use. Shared surfaces such as counters, toilets, sink handles, tabletops and doorknobs should be cleaned daily using regular household cleaners.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a list of pre-approved products that can be used to clean surfaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protect health-care providers
In the event you need to leave for a medical appointment, you should wear a mask if you have one to contain infectious droplets. You should inform your local public health authority and any other health-care providers or medical staff that you may have COVID-19 and have been self-isolating at home.
How to get from A to B
Travelling to your appointment in a private vehicle is recommended, but if this is not a possibility, then Ottawa Public Health recommends wearing a mask, sitting in the back passenger seat of a hired vehicle — such as an Uber or taxi — with the window open, if possible.
Take care of your mental health, too
In their guide of mental health considerations amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests minimizing your consumption of news that makes you feel anxious or stressed. They suggest seeking out updates at specific times of day, instead of watching or reading a constant stream of news about the virus.
Keep up your daily routine
People in self-isolation should also try to keep their daily routine as much as possible — or create new routines, the WHO advises. Continue to engage in healthy activities you enjoy, as well as exercising, maintaining your sleep routine and eating healthy food.
Create virtual connections
Even though you have to physically isolate yourself from other people, you can still create digital connections through texts, video calls or a good, old-fashioned phone call.
What’s the difference between quarantine and self-isolation?
Isolation refers to people who are sick with an infection and could be contagious to others, whereas quarantine refers to people who have been exposed to someone who is infectious but are not demonstrating symptoms, according to Dr. Susy Hota, a clinician investigator at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute.
The direction to self-isolate or quarantine is typically given by public health, said Dr. Hota. (Under the Health Protection and Promotion Act of Ontario, for example, a medical officer may order people who has or may have a communicable disease to isolate themselves.) If someone is symptomatic and is tested for COVID-19, their doctor should send them home to self-isolate; and their family members may also be told to quarantine if they’ve been in close contact.
The Canadian government is asking anyone who has travelled overseas and entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days.
If you haven’t been directed by officials to self-isolate or quarantine and aren’t symptomatic, you are encouraged to practise social distancing — essentially “keeping people apart as much as possible” to flatten the curve and lessen the burden on the health-care system.
If you do notice COVID-19 symptoms, you should self-isolate and call public health or your family doctor.
How long does self-isolation last?
People recover from COVID-19 at different rates — from days to weeks — so if you’ve been instructed to self-isolate, the duration will depend on the results of the lab tests and the length of time you could spread the infection to another person.
The average time before people show symptoms is 14 days, so if someone is quarantined then they’re recommended to watch for symptoms for 14 days.
WATCH: What you need in a COVID-19 emergency kit.