What is the difference between social distancing and isolation?

In general, physical separation from other people is the most effective means of stopping the transmission of respiratory illnesses. What exactly this separation looks like, however, depends on the status of your health; you may need to either practice social distancing or isolate yourself completely from other people to prevent the spread of diseases such as the coronavirus. But should you enter isolation, or simply distance yourself?

Simply put, isolation should be done by people who have tested positive for a contagious disease and are indeed sick. You should enter isolation due to an official diagnosis of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Disease precautions become much more rigid once you have received positive confirmation. In this case, you need to completely isolate yourself from the public and other members of your household; if you live with other people, stay in one room, and get groceries and medication delivered so you don’t need to go outside. When traveling to a medical facility, wear a mask to prevent the spreading of respiratory droplets that might contain the virus.

Isolation vs. Social Distancing

Social distancing, on the other hand, is a broader means of precaution. Social distancing applies to entire communities and you should practice it whether you are experiencing symptoms or not; don’t wait until you get a positive test result. 25% of people who have coronavirus are asymptomatic, which means you are potentially a carrier and are potentially spreading the disease to people you come into contact with, even though you aren’t exhibiting any symptoms. Social distancing asks everyone to refrain from shaking hands, hugging, and being in crowds. You should also stay six feet away from other people, at work and in public.

The difference between social distancing and isolation is that distancing should be done by everyone, whether you feel ill or not, and isolation should be done only by people who are sick. They are both public health practices that are meant to protect the population as a whole. Keep in mind, however, that you should isolate only if you do indeed have an illness.



View all Social Distancing Q&A


Free E-Book

PPE Guide

Make sure employees are properly protected with the right PPE for the job.

Other FREE Resources:

Helpful Resources