Are American adults capable of quarantining?

Novelist Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan quarantined in a hotel room at the Tan Village Hotel Sentosa in Singapore in March.

(CNN)If you think quarantine needs a better publicist in the United States, you might be right.

New Zealanders went into a strict lockdown and so did Italians. So did the residents of China, Spain, Bolivia, Morocco and South Korea.
The idea of isolating for a stretch of two weeks either because you've been exposed to Covid-19 or are traveling from a Covid-19 hotspot, however, can feel like a punishment to Americans, not a long-standing infectious disease prevention policy.
    It might feel the same way to thousands of Germans: Demonstrators gathered near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate Wednesday to protest an ongoing nationwide lockdown, Berlin police spokesman Stefan Petersen earlier told CNN. When the crowds didn't disperse, police used water cannons to move protestors away from the area, Berlin police said.
      Whether or not the US ever imposes a nationwide lockdown, the fact is that with over 100,000 US cases confirmed daily, we're going to have to get used to the idea of quarantining. As that number inches up to 200,000 daily cases, the reality is that we're about to experience an even more difficult time with this virus if behaviors don't change.
        It's puzzling to residents of other regions around the world that have successfully gone into lockdown -- and are heading into lockdown again without much debate.
        This attitude also would likely confound people arriving in the US a century ago, some of whom were quarantined when they arrived at Ellis Island and were found to carry certain contagious diseases such as smallpox and typhoid or were required to stay in lockdown during the 1918 flu pandemic.

          For the sake of community health

          "Quarantine inherently means you're making a sacrifice for the good of others," said Dr. Dara Kass, associate clinical professor of emergency medicine at the NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.
          "For some, it feels like overkill if they're feeling no Covid-19 symptoms. Others are looking at it from their own perspective — how does it affect me, not how can I help prevent the spread to other people."
          That doesn't make sense to many people outside the United States. The argument by some that quarantine is a breach of basic freedom doesn't work for novelist Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, who quarantined in a Singapore hotel for two weeks in March.
          "Civic responsibility has to be more important than everything else," said Tan, the author of "Sarong Party Girls." Tan left her home in New York City, flying to Singapore to be closer to her parents when Covid-19 cases started rising in New York last spring.
          During her quarantine, Tan isolated in her Singapore hotel room, with three meals a day delivered to her room. Government representatives called her daily and required that she show them, via video, that she had remained in that room — alone — or risk a fine or even jail time.
          "I truly believe that if you want your freedom, give up your freedom for two weeks, and then we can all truly be free," she said.
          Carole Blueweiss, a physical therapist and podcaster, followed every state-mandated quarantine protocol when she returned home to New York City in October after spending the previous seven months in Florida.
          Carole Blueweiss felt a civic duty to follow quarantine protocol when she returned home to New York from a long-term stay in Florida.
          On some days, she did question the necessity of doing so.
          "Did I agree that it was absolutely necessary given the fact that I was basically in quarantine when I was in Florida? It wasn't as if I was out there partying or doing anything risky, no," she said. "At times my mindset was 'this is stupid' or 'why can't I go out with my mask on and stay away from other people?' but I felt I needed to do this. It made me feel patriotic."
          For Blueweiss, it came down to weighing the law, science and respecting all that New York City had done to keep Covid-19 cases down since the outbreak began last spring.
          "Quarantine isn't anything I would have ever imagined doing," she said. "It feels radical but the idea of keeping more people safe should be more important than anything else. That helped me shift my feelings away from being angry or resentful and, instead, focus on putting something good into the world."
          Some Canadians say they aren't struggling with quarantine as much as their neighbors to the south, and this will serve Canada well as case counts rise after their October Thanksgiving celebrations and increased restrictions are on the horizon.
          "We more or less accept the dictates of public health with less rancor than occurs in the US," said Dr. Ross Upshur, a professor of clinical public health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
          "What worries me looking at our good neighbors to the south is that the deep divisiveness that exists now seems to be mitigating against something we take for granted here, this common good, this belief that we're all in this together. We're each other's neighbors, and it's our obligation to not make somebody else ill if we can help it."
          Darren Sukonick, who lives in Toronto and traveled to the United States three times during the pandemic, agrees that there's a different take on quarantine in Canada.
          "I think some people view it as a hindrance and an irritation to have to isolate when they come back to Canada from the US," said Sukonick, principal at Matthew Sapera Fine Homes, a custom home builder, who quarantined for 14 days as per Canadian regulations.