I flew away new York to The angel for the holidays this week against the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control stay at home and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly. I am currently traveling I must take all possible precautions to ensure that the risk of contagion is as low as possible – and for this trip also the following California’s guidelines and quarantine me for 14 days.

However, compliance with the rules, which vary greatly from state to state and change frequently, raises the question: How can we even properly quarantine?

To better plan my quarantine, before I left I called Stephen Morse, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University Medical Center. “A lot depends on how careful you have to be,” says Morse. He suggests a line of self-questioning: “Do you trust the other people you are with? Do you trust that you took the correct precautions? “

For starters, these “proper precautions” are the habits we will all hopefully adopt: Wear masks, Disinfecting or washing your hands when touching surfaces, not touching your face, staying half a meter away from others, staying at home when feeling sick, getting tested if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, seeing people outdoors – and when you socialize, be honest about your pandemic habits and ask others to do the same.

“Obviously, your risk of contracting the virus will never be zero,” he says. “But you can reduce and minimize the risk.” To reduce the possibility of the virus spreading, Morse recommends doing so a PCR test before your flight (or your car or train trip) with the time in between to get your results. Stick to the good habits – you don’t want to be tested on Monday and infected on Tuesday – and only travel if you test negative.

However, testing is not a perfect system. “You won’t be positive for a test for at least three days – usually five to eight days – after infection,” says Morse. It is possible to get a negative result for the first few days after infection while the virus is incubating in your system.

For this reason, regardless of the tests, Morse proposes a quarantine to rule out apparently healthy travelers being infected with the virus. This is different from self-isolation, when someone confirms that COVID-19 is self-isolating until they recover. However, the purpose is the same in both cases: “To prevent people from possibly infecting others, either until we know they are not infected (quarantine) or can no longer infect others (isolation).”

What should the quarantine look like? “It’s not really quarantine when you’re exposed to people, like others in the store or on the street, who could potentially be infected,” says Morse. Do the obvious: stay inside. Have groceries, family members, or friends deliver your groceries. (I use shipping.) Consider getting supplies 14 days in advance. (I’ve bought so much pasta.) Find a new hobby, suggests Dr. Morse, and don’t forget to exercise. (I have to sweat off said pasta.)