Differentiating isolation and quarantine in COVID-19

Two different letters are sent to people that are test-positive or suspected cases

Press Release
August 7, 2020

Two different letters are distributed to people in the community that have been exposed to COVID-19; one focused on isolation, and another on quarantine. There has been some confusion in the public over what each of these letters entail, prompting Garfield County Public Health to provide further description.

In conjunction with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Garfield County Public Health issues letters to both people that have been confirmed by lab testing to have COVID-19, and those who have been exposed and likely carry the virus.

A person who has taken a COVID-19 test with positive lab-confirmed results will receive a public health isolation letter. Those who haven’t taken a COVID-19 test, but who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, will be sent a public health quarantine letter.


Public Health staff sends both the quarantine and isolation letters out to people that may have been exposed to COVID-19, so they understand what to do under both circumstances. It also provides people that have tested positive with the necessary steps to protect their household and anyone who they may have been in contact with. If someone under quarantine begins to feel ill, they will have the needed information on how to go into self-isolation.


If you receive an isolation letter after testing positive, you must follow certain criteria to ensure you don’t spread the disease:

  • Stay home, except to get medical care.
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
  • If possible, wear a face mask when you are around other people or pets, and before you enter a health care provider’s office.
  • Monitor your symptoms.
  • Practice actions that protect others, such as washing your hands often and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Cover coughs or sneezes and don’t share household items with family members. Clean frequently touched items in your home each day.

Remain in isolation until 10 days after your symptoms begin and when you haven’t had a fever for at least 24 hours.


If you receive a quarantine letter:

  • Avoid public places for 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person.
  • Monitor your health for fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, body aches, sore throat, headache, diarrhea, runny nose, nausea/vomiting for 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person.
  • Notify Garfield County Public Health if you develop fever (temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.0 degrees Celsius) or other symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, chills, body aches, sore throat, headache, diarrhea, runny nose, nausea/vomiting).
  • Prior to seeking any medical attention in an office, clinic, or hospital, you must call and inform your health care providers that you are under active monitoring for potential exposure to COVID-19.

After 14 days from the last day you were in close contact with the sick person, resume all normal activities.


How are tests counted?

Public Health recently began reporting total cases in real time to better align with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) case reports, ensuring that figures match up more closely. Previously, the county was reporting only completed data, including demographics, location and onset date, once a case investigation was completed.

Anyone desiring a COVID-19 test will be screened over the phone prior to going to a health care facility.

Garfield County is not providing COVID-19 tests, but there are medical care providers in the area, including Mountain Family Health, Valley View Hospital, Grand River Health and Glenwood Medical Associates, that offer testing.


Key terms

It is important to understand certain terms as they apply to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clinical criteria
– a patient who has at least two of the following symptoms: chills, rigors, myalgia, headache, sore throat, new olfactory and taste disorder(s); one of the following symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing; or severe respiratory illness including either clinical or radiographic evidence of pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Epidemiologic link – If the patient has had close contact with someone that is a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 or has been to an area with sustained, ongoing community spread of the disease.

Close contact – This is defined as having been within six feet of a person for at least 10 to 30 minutes or more. In a health care setting, close contact is considered an exposure of a few minutes or more.

Confirmed case – A case in which a person was lab-tested for COVID-19 and has been confirmed to be positive.

Probable case – A case in which the person has two of the following three factors: meets the clinical criteria; has epidemiological linkage; and has tested positive using an antigen or serology test. In this case, there isn’t the need for a confirmed lab test to be considered probable. This also includes someone that has either died of COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 or the illness is listed as a significant condition that contributed to the death on the death certificate, but no lab-confirmed testing was performed.

Suspect case – a case in which the person has tested positive for COVID-19 using an antibody or antigen test and doesn’t meet the clinical criteria or have an epidemiological link, or this information is unknown.

Confirmed outbreak – Two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a location or group over a 14-day period. An outbreak is considered resolved 28 days after the onset symptoms of the last case.


More information is at garfield-county.com/public-health/novel-coronavirus.

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