COVID Corner: Understanding Definitions

To help us understand how coronavirus is affecting our school community and share important and useful information, we have created the “COVID Corner.”  
This post was created to better understand definitions* often used when speaking about COVID-19. 
Case. A person actively infected with the virus. A case can either have symptoms leading to diagnosis of disease (COVID-19) or have no symptoms but test positive for the virus (SARS-CoV-2). Cases have the potential to transmit infection; they may expose others.
Exposure. Being within 6 feet of a confirmed case, especially indoors, for greater than 10 min with either the case or the other person not wearing a mask. If you have a true exposure you need to quarantine.
Quarantine. Separating yourself from others (applies after an exposure). Quarantine is to prevent spread of the virus in case you ultimately become infected. While on average the time to develop infection is thought to be around five days, some individuals have developed first symptoms of COVID-19 as far as 14 days from exposure. Thus from exposure, the period of quarantine is 14 days. PLEASE NOTE: Testing negative for the virus does not shorten this period; if you have a true exposure, you must quarantine for a full 14 days. Also, if you develop symptoms (or test positive) during the quarantine period, your total time of separation from others may be even longer than 14 days due to the need for self-isolation.    
Self-isolation. Separating yourself from others (applies only if you become infected). Self-isolation is to prevent spread of the virus once you are definitely a case. The period of self-isolation is 10 days. The clock starts with the onset of symptoms or, if asymptomatic, at the time of sampling for a positive test. The reason for 10 days is that infected people do not usually shed live virus beyond 9 days. PLEASE NOTE: Testing negative for virus no longer shortens the self-isolation period; if you are a case, you must self-isolate at least 10 days. Also, if symptoms persist without improvement or you have fever beyond day 9, your total time of isolation may be even longer than 10 days. 
*The definitions above apply to the vast majority of situations. There are rare exceptions. For example:

  • There can be instances where individuals test positive for SARS-CoV-2 but are not contagious. 
  • There are at least possible risks of exposure to the virus despite meeting all criteria to prevent it.
  • There have been reports of symptoms developing in some individuals beyond 14 days from exposure.
  • It is possible in people who are immunocompromised to shed live virus beyond 10 days; people with severe disease may need to self-isolate longer than 10 days.

EMS has expert consultation to address rare exceptions. 

References and Resources:

  • Re-Entry
  • Remote Learning/Social Distancing