COLORADO SPRINGS — In this Your Healthy Family, I’m following up on my conversation with Dr. Robin Johnson, MD, MPH(c), FACEP, the Medical Director for the El Paso County Public Health Department about the important difference between isolation and quarantine.
As I learned in October, after a member of my household had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, and another member of my household was coming down with a cough and body aches, it’s difficult to quarantine and lie low - when you feel fine.
Dr. Johnson explains that the recommended 14 days for quarantine even when you’re not having symptoms is important because, “Those 14 days are determined by the life cycle of the virus. You become infectious up to two days before you have any symptoms, so 14 days is meant to break that chain of COVID, and it is truly an act of community investment.”
Quarantining when you're feeling fine can also be an emotional struggle. At least if you're isolating because you're having symptoms or have tested positive, you know your actions are for a good reason.
And as we approach the holidays, it doesn’t matter if you are simply following community guidelines of smaller gatherings, or only getting together virtually, the mental struggle and toll can be significant at a time when we may look forward to large gatherings and meals with family and friends.
Dr. Johnson says, “There is a grief to this because there is something that feels like we have lost something. It’s just not the same because we really look forward to being with family or friends, and so we feel isolated and so first acknowledging that is key. These are not necessarily easy decisions for you personally. I also think it's important to focus on what you can do and follow through with the people you can do things with and still connect ways that you can innovate. Create a tradition just for 2020 because this has been the year that has brought us all kinds of challenges so it will be one that becomes infamous in our memory.”
Even after 2020 has passed, Dr. Johnson feels we need to be mentally prepared to continue through the challenges of the pandemic for a little longer. “I do think we are in for a long winter. I do think that there are these things that can bring us hope, and we need to capitalize on them. The vaccine can be one of them, but the vaccine is only one of the layers of prevention. It will take time for us to get people vaccinated and for them to amount some immunity, so during that time we are going to need to stay the course.”
Staying the course means, continuing to invest in the health of our community with the sacrifices that may feel big or small, that will have a big impact in limiting the spread of the virus.
Dr. Johnson says, “We wonder if what we do is seen or not can really change the spread that much? The answer is yes, and we need everyone to snip that thread a virus that is connected to them. It ends with you when you follow the guidance on isolation or quarantine. It ends with you when you wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, or make a choice to have a small gathering. Small acts actually lead to the big impacts.”
Understanding the impact of these choices, may not always make them easy to do. Dr. Johnson says none of us are in this alone. “Encourage each other, have grace with each other when we are not as patient, or as diligent as we should be. Make sure to come together as a community to support each other as we have days when we are more discouraged than others.”
And as we look forward to more challenging times, we can remind each other a few things, including that this pandemic will end.
Dr. Johnson says, “I do believe (it’s important) to not only speak words of kindness, but words of hope to others. This too shall end, we will get to the end of all this. Not tomorrow, or next week, but we know from history that pandemics do end. We have more resources than anyone in history to help us get to the end of this more successfully and more quickly.”