Feeling ALONE in all of this terminology? Differentiating Isolation, Quarantine, Social Distancing, Mitigation, and Lockdown.

By March 19, 2020 No Comments

Navigating the Complex Language Surrounding COVID-19

It is easy to get lost in the weeds when it comes to all of the jargon. It seems like we are minute-by-minute getting inundated with new information surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. Rest assured, the team at DoctorLingo is hard at work to help you easily navigate all of the medical terms and acronyms surrounding these trying times. Please visit out dedicated dictionary surrounding the Coronavirus for up-to-date definitions written by medical professionals.

Today’s post outlines some common terms that are often confused with one another.

Isolation vs Quarantine?

Isolation is a term used when you separate a sick person from someone who is not sick, to prevent the spread of disease. In other words, this is taking an individual with a confirmed, or highly suspected case of COVID-19, and separating them from others. This person is symptomatic and likely contagious. The isolation should remain in place until there is complete resolution of all symptoms.

Quarantine is is the act of isolating someone to see if they become sick. This is the 14 day rule. If you have an exposure that you are concerned about, we quarantine people for 14 days to see if they manifest symptoms. If you believe you have been in direct contact with somebody with COVID-19 or are developing the symptoms of Coronavirus, including: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, we ask that you place yourself on a voluntary quarantine away from others and follow the guidelines set forth by your state health department.

Social Distancing, Mitigation, and Lock Down

Social Distancing is, as the name implies, staying away from gatherings of large groups of people and keeping a safe distance from others. In the case of COVID-19, the CDC recommends maintaining a distance between person-to-person is 6 feet. This is easier said than done, especially in the case of children who completely lack a sense of boundaries. Unfortunately, this means that you should not treat mandated time in isolation or quarantine going to the mall, attending religious events, or going to a touristy area.

Mitigation is simply intervening to decrease the severity of disease spread. In the case of COVID-19, the CDC and state health departments have used mitigation to prevent the spread of the disease by closing schools, event centers, and theme parks. Essentially this drives people to unintentionally quarantine themselves and practice social distancing.

Lockdown is remaining inside a home, building , or area during an emergency situation, rather than going out into the public. This is often required in states of emergency to prevent something or somebody dangerous from entering or exiting. We have seen lockdown implemented city and country-wide, preventing the migration of people into and out of the respective city, states, and countries. This, like mitigation, is an effective tool for causing large scale quarantine.


As always, we welcome questions, suggestions, and write-ins from the medical community. Please do not hesitate to reach out.