Should You Quarantine After Traveling During the Pandemic?

Help keep your neighbors + community safe.

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You know that traveling during the pandemic is risky, even if you do your best to mitigate the risks. If you’re not careful, you might bring COVID-19 to your destination, or bring it back to your own community. With this in mind, should you quarantine after traveling during COVID-19?

Quarantine vs. Isolation

Quarantine refers to keeping yourself away from others if you *might* be sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. It’s a way of preventing you from transmitting the virus from others, since you may be contagious but not showing symptoms yet. On the other hand, isolation refers to keeping yourself away from others if you *are* sick.

The word quarantine comes from the Italian word quaranta, meaning 40 days. That’s because travelers who arrived in Italy were required to quarantine on an island for 40 days before they could enter the country, due to the bubonic plague. These travelers weren’t necessarily sick, but quarantining them ensured that they would not bring the infection into the country by the time they entered. (Learn more about the history of quarantine and social distancing here.)

Should You Quarantine After Traveling?

After traveling and having many potential opportunities for COVID-19 exposure, you may get infected and be contagious for up to 14 days. That said, a strict self-quarantine is only necessary if:

  1. You or someone you traveled with is having COVID-19 symptoms
  2. You’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive
  3. Your state or local government requires it

As for #3, states like New York have made restrictions requiring quarantine if you are arriving from a state with active spread. It’s a good idea to check your home state and destination state to learn more about their potential restrictions. You may need to quarantine upon arrival at your destination, or upon returning home.

Either Way, Be Cautious

If none of the above criteria are true, you don’t need to “quarantine,” but you should still be extra cautious for 14 days. This means adhering to the general guidelines for reducing the spread of COVID-19, but take it up a notch:

  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Keep a 6-foot distance from others you don’t live with—even outdoors
  • Always wear a cloth face covering outside of your home—even outdoors
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently
  • Monitor closely for COVID-19 symptoms

These habits will help protect your neighbors and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in your community. (BTW, here are potential reasons not to travel during the pandemic.)