COVID-19: Frequently Asked Health Questions

Students outside physically distanced

Last updated: April 5, 2021

The following frequently asked questions relate to health and well-being. If you are looking for FAQ's related to UNH operations, academics, etc. please visit the UNH Frequently Asked Questions page.

If you do not see your question listed here or in the UNH FAQ page, please use our Ask a Health Provider Service by emailing HW.COVID19@unh.edu. A physician will email or call you back, usually within the same day. Please include your your contact information (name, email, phone number).

Testing

Anyone who needs to come to campus for any purpose must get tested, and have a negative result, within three days in advance of visit to campus. If you are not participating in regular testing, email covid@unh.edu at least one week prior to receive instruction.

Residential students are screened twice weekly; others may be screened once or twice weekly.

Faculty and staff who come to campus for any reason need to  be tested every 7 days as part of UNH’s testing program.

If you are feeling ill/experiencing symptoms, self-isolate and call your Primary Care Provider (PCP) or other health care clinician for guidance:

  • UNH Durham Campus, please call (603) 862-9355 to speak with a UNH Health & Wellness staff member.
  • UNH Manchester and School of Law: Please contact your Primary Care Physician or local Urgent Care Clinic.

Visit the UNH testing information website for more information on ongoing testing.

Visit the UNH testing website for updated information about how and where you can get tested at UNH.

If your test results are:

"Not Recommended for Diagnostic Testing"

No restrictions to move about campus

Continue testing twice weekly (students) or weekly (faculty/staff)

"Recommended for Diagnostic Testing"

Self-isolate as a precaution until repeat test results complete

Re-test as soon as possible; Provide close contact information to Health & Wellness contact tracing staff

"REJECTED"

REJECTED samples are often a result of broken vials or samples that were not sealed properly. Contents are unable to be tested.

A new sample is required ASAP.

"INVALID" The UNH COVID Lab uses highly-sensitive molecular techniques. As a result, we are also able to determine if no sample was taken at all. A new sample is required ASAP.

If you test positive on a COVID-19 test processed through UNH you will be contacted by a member of the Health & Wellness staff. If you receive test results from an outside provider (ex. Local urgent care), please contact Health & Wellness at (603) 862-9355 to inform them of your positive results.

If positive, you will need to isolate yourself.

Isolation is used to separate people infected with the virus (those who are sick with COVID-19 and those with no symptoms) from people who are not infected.

Those with COVID-19 illness need to be in isolation for 10 days after symptoms appear, and at least 24 hours since resolution of fever (without fever-reducing medication), and improvement in respiration symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath).

Individuals in isolation should :

  • Ideally, have their own bedroom and bathroom
  • Have no contact with others.  If others need to have contact with the person who is COVD-19 positive or if they need to leave their room/housing they should wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away.
  • Not leave their room to go to work, classes, public events, church/worship, dining hall, etc.
  • Not use public transportation, such as the bus, train, Uber, or Lyft, etc.
  • Monitor their health as instructed by Health & Wellness or State Health Department
  • Not leave isolation and return to daily activities until cleared by a medical professional.

If you are a student you can choose to self-isolate at your permanent residence, in your off-campus housing or in housing identified on campus. UNH employees should self-isolate at their permanent residence.

In addition, Health & Wellness in conjunction with the NH Department of Health & Human Services will work with you to identify your close contacts and will reach out to them to inform them of possible exposure to COVID-19.

“Antibody testing checks a sample of a person's blood to look for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID19. These antibodies are produced when someone has been infected, so a positive result from this test indicates that person was likely previously infected with the virus. Antibody-based tests are now available through commercial laboratories for the detection of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose acute COVID-19 infection because it can take about 2 weeks after infection for antibody tests to be positive. It is not yet known if a person with a positive antibody test is protected from future SARS-CoV-2 infection or has the potential to infect others. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies will be contacted by the Division of Public Health.” (NH Department of Health & Human Services)

If you are interested in an antibody test, check with your healthcare provider to see if they offer antibody tests and whether you should get one. You should also call your insurance provider to ensure they cover testing and under what circumstances.

If you test positive:

A positive test result shows you may have antibodies from an infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. You may test positive for antibodies even if you have never had symptoms of COVID-19. This can happen if you had an infection without symptoms, which is called an asymptomatic infection.

This is also a chance that a positive result means you have antibodies from an infection with a different virus from the same family of viruses (called coronaviruses). Note: Other coronaviruses cannot produce a positive result on a viral test for SARS-CoV-2 (such as our PCR tests).

Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 may provide protection from getting infected with the virus again. But even if it does, we do not know how much protection the antibodies may provide or how long this protection may last.

If you work in a job where you wear personal protective equipment (PPE), continue wearing PPE.

If you test negative:

1) You may not have ever had COVID-19. Talk with your healthcare provider about your test result and the type of test you took to understand what your result means. If you had a positive SARS COV2 PCR test, you had COVID-19, but some other rapid tests are not as accurate.

2) You could have a current infection. The test may be negative because it typically takes 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies. It’s possible you could still get sick if you have been exposed to the virus recently. This means you could still spread the virus.

Some people may take even longer to develop antibodies, and some people who are infected may not ever develop antibodies (which is more likely if you never had symptoms).

Vaccination

There are 3 main ways the vaccine can protect you:

  1. A vaccinated person is less likely to catch the disease (this is known as “efficacy”).
  2. The vaccine provides protection against severe cases, meaning if you were to catch COVID after being vaccinated, you would be less likely to require hospitalization or be at risk of death. Research shows all vaccines do this very well.
  3. Research is emerging that a vaccinated person has a lower likelihood of transmitting the disease to others. You should still be cautious around others until evidence proves vaccines are successful in this way. 

This one’s a little complicated, but basically, no and no. You should get whichever vaccine is available to you. Most importantly, all of the vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson) prevent serious illness and death. You may have seen that Moderna and Pfizer are 95% effective at preventing illness entirely, while Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 66% effective. It’s important to know that all of the vaccines (even at 66%) are more effective than the annual flu shot (which is typically 40-60% effective due to the many different variants of the flu that circulate each year).

The vaccine will not give you COVID, since none of the vaccines carry live virus.

You may experience some side effects. These are normal signs that your body is building protection. “The most common side effects are pain and swelling in the arm where you received the shot. In addition, you may have fever, chills, tiredness, and headache. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Learn more about what to expect after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.” (CDC)

It is important to know that it is possible to get COVID-19 soon after you’ve been vaccinated because it takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity. This means that it’s especially important to keep following public health guidelines while you are in between doses of the vaccine and after 2 weeks have passed since your second dose.

The CDC is still gathering evidence about the effect of COVID-19 variants on the effectiveness of our current vaccines. 

According to the World Health Organization, "The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in development or have been approved are expected to provide at least some protection against new virus variants because these vaccines elicit a broad immune response involving a range of antibodies and cells. Therefore, changes or mutations in the virus should not make vaccines completely ineffective. In the event that any of these vaccines prove to be less effective against one or more variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants."

The CDC has released new guidelines for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. “We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more.”

However, there are looser restrictions for those who have been vaccinated. Read the full guidance here about what vaccinated folks are and are not recommended to do.

Yes. There isn’t enough evidence for us to know how long you carry antibodies after being infected with the virus. The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, regardless of whether or not you’ve been infected before. Learn more here.

It depends on which phase you are in and which state you are living in.

As of April 2, all NH residents over the age of 16 were eligible to register for vaccination. To learn more about registering, visit the NH COVID-19 Vaccine Phases site.

If you have already been vaccinated, thank you! Please let us know by uploading proof of your vaccination here.

Registration is now open for eligible members of the UNH community to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, April 8, or Friday, April 9, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Whittemore Center. You must be a NH resident to be eligible for this clinic. 

If you have already been vaccinated, thank you! Please let us know by uploading proof of your vaccination here.

No. You should wait until you have fully recovered and are no longer in isolation. This also applies if you’ve already had your first dose of the vaccine.

“Herd immunity means that enough people in a community are protected from getting a disease because they’ve already had the disease or because they’ve been vaccinated. Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person. It even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborns or people who are allergic to the vaccine. The percentage of people who need to have protection to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.” (CDC)

“Experts do not yet know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. CDC and other experts are studying herd immunity and will provide more information as it is available.” (CDC)

The CDC has released new travel guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated:

  • Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19.
  • People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States:
    • Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to get tested before or after travel unless their destination requires it
    • Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine
  • Fully vaccinated travelers should still follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely including:
    • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
    • Stay 6 feet from others and avoid crowds
    • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer

Transmission (Spread)

People of all ages can be infected by COVID-19. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.”

Everyone should take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by washing their hands often and covering coughs and sneezes. 

Infections most often occur through close contact from person to person through respiratory droplets. People expel respiratory droplets into the air when they cough, sneeze, sing, talk, breathe, etc.  If that person has COVID-19 and comes into close contact with someone else (typically within 6 feet), their respiratory droplets can land in the other person's mucous membranes or be inhaled, thereby spreading the infection. 

COVID-19 may also be spread through airborne transmission, which occurs when small droplets or particles linger in the air for minutes to hours. "These viruses may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space."

Asymptomatic people who are infected but do not show symptoms are able to spread the virus to others. 

There is some evidence that COVID-19 can spread through touching infected surfaces and from pets/other animals to people, but the risk is considered to be considerably lower than through respiratory transmission. Learn more about transmission here.

It is rare but possible to become re-infected with COVID-19 if you have had it already, so you'll still need to follow public health guidelines during and after recovery.  More research is needed to more fully understand the body's immune and antibody response to COVID. (CDC

If you come into close contact with a person who is later diagnosed with COVID-19 infection, UNH Health & Wellness and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommend:

  •  A close contact will be advised to begin a 10-day self-quarantine with continued monitoring for symptoms of illness. Monitoring of symptoms should continue after the end of quarantine for a total of 14 days.  They are to continue physical distancing (>6ft) from others, maintain face mask use and appropriate hand hygiene. If a significant fever (temperature >100.4), cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms were to develop, they should immediate isolate and call their PCP or UNH Health & Wellness for guidance.
  • According to NH DHHS, “household members such as family members, including children, of quarantined individuals are not required to quarantine. As long as they remain asymptomatic, they can leave the home and can go to public places like school and work. If the person being quarantined develops illness, household members must then also stay home and self-quarantine.”

“Currently there is no evidence that people can get COVID-19 by eating or handling food. It may be possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, such as a food package or dining ware that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

There is also no current evidence that people can get COVID-19 by drinking water. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or kill the virus that causes COVID-19.​” (CDC)

Yes, being a current or former cigarette smoker increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (CDC).

Health & Wellness is here to support anyone who is interested in reducing or quitting their use. Students may also schedule free telehealth appointments for Wellness Education/Counseling online and utilize our many virtual programs for additional support.

"It is especially important for people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and those who live with them, to protect themselves from getting COVID-19.

The best way to protect yourself and to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 is to:

What You Can do if You Are at a Higher Risk (PDF - CDC)

Health & Wellness is prepared to partner with students’ medical providers to discuss specifics. If you are on the UNH Durham campus, Health & Wellness has Health Resource Nurses who serve as the contact point for concerned students, and students can contact them for information and guidance by calling (603) 862-9355. If you are on UNH Manchester or School of Law campuses, please contact your primary care physician or local Urgent Care Clinic. Employees with an underlying health condition should work with their healthcare provider for information and guidance. 

"Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. See If You Have Pets for more information about pets and COVID-19." (CDC)

Quarantine/Isolation

Self-quarantine means that you practice caution for 14 days after having close contact with someone who is sick to see if you develop symptoms. For 14 days:

  • Stay at home with social restrictions. Do not go to work, classes, or other social activities. Avoid activities in public and avoid having visitors.
  • If possible, use a separate bathroom from “household members” (aka roommates, people you live with/near).
  • If possible, use a separate kitchen to prepare food. If you do not have a separate kitchen space, have food delivered and avoid contact with anyone delivering food.
  • If around other people practice physical distancing (about 6 feet or 2 meters) and wear a mask/face covering.
  • Do not use public transportation, such as the bus, train, Uber, or Lyft, etc.
  • Self-monitor for fever (>100.4F), cough, and/or shortness of breath. If you experience symptoms, call Health & Wellness at 603-862-9355, your primary care physician, or a local urgent care clinic for guidance.
  • As long as you remain asymptomatic, other “household members” (aka roommates, people you live with/near) can leave the home and can go to public spaces like school and work. If the person in self-quarantine develops symptoms, “household members” must then also stay home and self-quarantine.

Refer to the Quarantine and Isolation documents linked here.

Please refer to this packing list for details.

A close contact is defined as "someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period* starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated." 

* See CDC page for more information.

Yes, you need to quarantine for 10 days following quarantine guidelines (see first question in this Quarantine section) and monitor symptoms for 14 days.

Only individuals who are identified as close contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive are required to quarantine. Quarantine is not recommended or required for someone who has contact with close contacts of someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Self-monitoring for symptoms is advised. If significant fever (temperature >100.4), cough or shortness of breath were to develop, they should call their PCP or UNH Health & Wellness for guidance.

Yes, you must continue to quarantine and continue to test as directed. 

(As of March 16, 2021) "Domestic travel within the U.S. outside of New England no longer requires quarantine upon return to NH, although people are recommended to still follow CDC’s travel guidance, including wearing a well-fitted face mask while traveling, practicing social distancing, getting tested 3-5 days after travel (with a molecular or PCR-based test), and limiting public interactions after travel (even if not required to quarantine)."

For more information about travel restrictions and precautions, please see the Travel section below.

Prevention at UNH

Yes, get your flu vaccine! Two outbreaks happening at once would strain our health resources and would be dangerous for the UNH, Durham, and surrounding communities. Getting the flu vaccine is one of the best things you can do for the health and safety of yourself and others.

According to the CDC: "For the upcoming flu season, flu vaccination will be very important to reduce flu because it can help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population and thus lessen the resulting burden on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A flu vaccine may also provide several individual health benefits, including keeping you from getting sick with flu, reducing the severity of your illness if you do get flu and reducing your risk of a flu-associated hospitalization."

Everyone can do their part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. Follow the UNH COVID-19 prevention guidelines, and don’t forget to get your flu shot!

 Yes. The University of New Hampshire AND the Town of Durham require all students, Durham residents, visitors, employees and passersby in town to wear cloth face coverings when outside their residence hall/apartment/home to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

 This is because COVID-19 may be spread from person to person whether someone is symptomatic or not. Therefore, anyone may be potentially contagious, including yourself. Correct mask use, combined with physical distancing (>6ft), may protect others from any unintentional spread of infection.

As of early February 2021, research has emerged that tightly fitting masks and possibly double masks may provide greater protection from increasingly contagious strains of COVID-19:

"Two methods substantially boost fit and protection, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One is wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask. The second is improving the fit of a surgical mask by knotting the ear loops and tucking in the sides close to the face to prevent air from leaking out around the edges."

To learn more about these recommendation and how to make your own mask, visit our Education and Resources page and/or the CDC’s website.

Wear masks with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19. Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin. The CDC has great guidance on what masks are effective and how to wear them at this page.

Feeling anxious, stressed, scared, and/or worried are normal reactions to the unknowns about a new virus, what we see and hear around us, and things that feel outside of our control. These emotions can help motivate us to be informed and take actions to protect ourselves and others:

  • Get adequate sleep, eat well, move your body, hydrate, do things that help to relax your body and mind—these actions strengthen our immune systems and our emotional well-being!
  • Know the facts about the virus and getting accurate information from reliable sources.
  • Take breaks from media, including social media.
  • Practice physical distancing, not social distancing. It is important to stay connected to family, friends, and other support systems.
  • Acknowledge your feelings instead of suppressing them. It can be helpful to write down your feelings and list what is making you feel this way. Acknowledging feelings also includes acknowledging how others feel. Telling yourself or others not to worry, be stressed, or panic only tends to make ourselves and others feel worse.
  • Be kind and compassionate with yourself and others.

Additional Resources

  • Managing Fears and Anxiety around the Coronavirus (COVID-19) (Harvard)
  • Coping With Stress (CDC)
  • Living Well Services at Health & Wellness provides education, counseling, wellness coaching, support, and resources to maintain and improve emotional wellness. Make a telehealth appointment with a Wellness Educator/Counselor or Wellness Coach.
  • WellTrack is a self-guided and interactive resource to support your mental health and well-being. It’s easy to use and free-of-charge to UNH students. Based on cognitive-behavioral approaches, the app can help you identify, understand and addressAnxiety,Depression, Resiliency andPublic Speaking. WellTrack can be used alone or in conjunction with psychotherapy.

If you find the emotions you are experiencing are impacting your daily life and functioning, reach out for help: 

  • Students at UNH-Durham can contact Psychological and Counseling Services (PACS) 603-862-2090. 
  • Students at UNH-M can contact The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester (MHCGM) on campus (603) 641-4170 or directly (603) 668-4111.
  • Students at UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law can contact Riverbend Community Mental Health 603-228-1600 for an appointment or if crisis 1-844-743-5748.
  • Employees can contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 1-800-424-1749.
  • The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for those in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals: 1-800-273-8255.

Perform routine environmental cleaning. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, countertops). Read CDC's interim environmental cleaning and disinfection recommendations and Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes for community members and people isolated in home care. Use all cleaning products according to the directions on the label.

If you live on campus, in order to avoid the risk of a chemical reaction with disinfectants being used by UNH Facilities, Housing and Dining, please do not purchase or bring any cleaning agents for use on campus, particularly chlorine-based products, without prior approval from Environmental Health and Safety.

The CDC recommends the following for preventing the spread of infectious diseases: “Use disinfecting wipes on electronic items that are touched often, such as phones and computers. Pay close attention to the directions for using disinfecting wipes. It may be necessary to use more than one wipe to keep the surface wet for the stated length of contact time. Make sure that the electronics can withstand the use of liquids for cleaning and disinfecting.”

Travel Precautions

For global travel advisories, refer to the U.S. Department of State website.

New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NH DHHS) updates for travel requirements can be found here

While at UNH, it is strongly discouraged to travel unless necessary. Do not travel while sick.

"Travel can increase your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19."

If you are considering traveling, refer to these important questions to ask yourself and your loved ones beforehand, and refer to the CDC's list of how to keep yourself safe while doing so.

If you must travel, take the following steps:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Travelers should monitor their health during travel and after travel and limit interactions at large gatherings with other for 14 days after returning to the United States.

Because older adults and those with chronic medical conditions may be at higher risk for severe disease, people in these groups should discuss travel with a healthcare provider and consider postponing nonessential travel.

Domestic & Local Updates

With the evolving nature of the virus in the United States, check here for updated information regarding the coronavirus in the U.S.

NH Division of Public Health Services provides the number of positive, possible, and fatal cases in NH, at https://www.nh.gov/covid19.

General Information: COVID-19

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is a respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China responsible for the COVID-19 illness. Learn about COVID-19.

Human coronaviruses are common worldwide. Common human coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. A novel coronavirus (CoV) is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. 

"The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir. However, the exact source of this virus is unknown." (CDC)

More information about the epidemiology (i.e., source and spread) of COVID-19 can be found here.

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. Read more about COVID-19 Symptoms here.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, self-isolate and call your Primary Care Provider (PCP) or other health care clinician for guidance:

  • UNH Durham Campus, please call (603) 862-9355 to speak with a UNH Health & Wellness staff member.
  • UNH Manchester and School of Law: Please contact your Primary Care Physician or local Urgent Care Clinic.

“Stigma is associated with a lack of knowledge about how COVID-19 spreads, a need to blame someone, fears about disease and death, and gossip that spreads rumors and myths.” People who experience stigma may also face discrimination. For more information about stigma and how to reduce it in your community, visit the CDC website.

If you have observed or experienced an incident of bias or hate, discrimination and/or harassment, please report the incident using the reportit!_form or contact the Affirmative Action and Equity Office at affirmaction.equity@unh.edu or (603) 862-2930 Voice / (603) 862-1527 TTY / 7-1-1 Relay NH.

Glossary of Terms

The following is a list of terms used widely with regard to COVID-19.

Community Spread: Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Flattening the curve (Harvard): refers to the epidemic curve, a statistical chart used to visualize the number of new cases over a given period of time during a disease outbreak. Flattening the curve is shorthand for implementing mitigation strategies to slow things down, so that fewer new cases develop over a longer period of time. This increases the chances that hospitals and other healthcare facilities will be equipped to handle any influx of patients.

Isolation vs. quarantine: both help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.

  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.
  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

Social distancing vs. Physical distancing: The CDC defines social distancing as "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (> 6 feet) from others when possible." Examples include working from home, closing schools, canceling large gatherings.

Health & Wellness has recently begun using the term “physical distancing” rather than social distancing to acknowledge that we need social connection (virtually and safely) even as we work to keep ourselves and others healthy through physical distance. 

Additional Resources