If a housemate has a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) or is showing symptoms, your living situation can get serious and stressful quickly. The virus spreads most easily in shared spaces, so it's important to be vigilant and take the right precautions to protect yourself while you care for your housemate.
How to Manage a Coronavirus Case in Your Household
The Centers For Disease Control recommends the following measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within homes:
- Monitor your housemate's health. If their symptoms worsen, call their healthcare provider right away. (Reminder: these are the main symptoms of the novel coronavirus.)
- Separate yourself from your housemate as much as possible. Stay and sleep in separate rooms. Use separate bathrooms, if possible.
- Prohibit nonessential visitors.
- Allow good air flow in shared spaces. Open the windows, turn on air conditioning, or use a fan to keep air moving through your home.
- Clean high-touch surfaces frequently with approved disinfecting agents. These are the surfaces you should clean and the wipes and sprays that are known to fight the coronavirus.
- Avoid sharing household items. Use separate glasses, dishes, utensils, towels, and bedding.
- Wear a disposable facemask and gloves when you touch or interact with your housemate. Throw out your gloves and mask after using them, then wash your hands.
- Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. Here's the correct way to wash your hands to protect yourself from the virus.
How Can I Manage a Coronavirus Case in a Small Apartment?
When you live in a small apartment, things can be more difficult. You may be sharing a bedroom, a small kitchen, a bathroom, and other close spaces with one or multiple housemates. The closer you are together, the harder it can be to keep away from each other and stop the virus from spreading. But according to Aruna Subramanian, MD, an infectious disease doctor and clinical medical professor at Stanford University, there are still steps you can and should take to protect yourself in a small apartment.
- Self-isolate as much as possible. "They should try to stay in their room as much as possible," Dr. Subramanian said. That may mean shifting sleeping arrangements or designating a different area of your apartment to your housemate. Stay at least six feet away from them as much as possible, and if their area has a door, keep it closed.
- Have them wear a mask. This is especially important if your housemate is around other people (for example, if you're bringing them meals). You and any other housemates should also wear a mask when you interact with them. "This is to prevent transmission to other people," Dr. Subramanian told POPSUGAR.
- Wipe down the bathroom and other shared areas after use by your housemate. Dr. Subramanian recommended wiping down the bathroom doorknobs and the toilet handle after your roommate uses the restroom. You should aim to disinfect any surface they may have touched, including the faucet, countertops, and medicine cabinet. Keep disinfecting wipes in the bathroom and be as thorough as possible.
- Follow the CDC's best practices for sharing space with an infected housemate. If you take care of yourself and closely adhere to the recommended precautions, you stand the best chance of staying healthy while caring for your housemate.
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.