As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take an outsize toll on everyday life, staying at home has grown beyond just sound medical advice. In several states, it’s become the law of the land. With mandatory stay-at-home orders enacted across the country, some people living with roommates or partners may be grateful they’re not alone during this unprecedented ordeal, but others may worry about what happens if their roommates get sick. Here’s what you should do if your roommate needs to quarantine after showing COVID-19 symptoms or testing positive for the virus.
Keep up your usual preventative actions
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a primer on everyday preventive actions for limiting the spread of COVID-19. If you’re not already practicing these actions, then you should absolutely do so if your roommate needs to quarantine.
Separate the sick roommate as much as possible
When you share an apartment with people, you’ll be using the same common spaces as them. Some of these spaces, such as the kitchen and bathroom, are vital, so you can’t easily avoid sharing them. That’s why these spaces can be hotbeds for picking up illnesses that your roommates have. Thus, if your roommate needs to quarantine, they should be staying in their room as much as possible and limiting the time they spend in your common spaces. If your apartment has more than one bathroom, sick roommates should be relegated to one bathroom and all other roommates to the other bathrooms.
Don’t share personal items
Even if your roommate spends as much time alone in their room as possible, they simply can’t avoid the kitchen or, in a one-bathroom apartment, the bathroom you all share. In this case, don’t share personal items such as food, kitchen and bathroom supplies, linens, and more. In the kitchen, for example, a sick roommate should only use silverware and kitchenware designated solely for them.
Wash your hands and disinfect surfaces even more often
Viruses are distinctly difficult enemies to fight because they’re invisible. Thus, even if you think your kitchen countertops are sparkling clean, they could be home to virus particles, and if your hands come into contact with your countertops and then your eyes, nose, or mouth, you could be exposed to the virus. It’s thus important to disinfect surfaces regularly if your roommate needs to quarantine. Be sure to use proper disinfecting techniques to ensure a clean, safe household. Additionally, regularly washing your hands can reduce your chances of accidentally transmitting the virus from household surfaces into your body.
What if I’m the sick roommate?
Conversely, if you’re the roommate showing COVID-19 symptoms, you should take extra care to not accidentally infect your roommates. If possible, cover your nose and mouth whenever you’re in common spaces. Cover your sneezes and coughs with a tissue, paper towel, or the inner elbow of your sleeve. Wash your hands before and after entering common spaces. If your symptoms are severe enough that you think you might need hospitalization, don’t hesitate to seek it, as this can both increase your chances of recovery and separate you from your roommates, reducing their risk of exposure.
Additionally, be sure to counter your physical isolation with digital communication with friends and family, as isolation can be detrimental to your mental health. Even if you can’t be in physical proximity with your roommates, you can still be in touch with your other loved ones, and their support – in addition to proper hydration, nutrition, and rest – can help you get through your illness.