How to protect a vulnerable person in your house from coronavirus

June 01, 2020
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The coronavirus pandemic has forced people to pay more attention to what they’re touching and do a better job of cleaning their hands and houses.
 
For people who live with a loved one who could be more susceptible to complications from COVID-19, this is an important lifestyle change.
 
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that older adults and people with underlying medical conditions — hypertension, lung disease, moderate-to-severe asthma, diabetes, severe obesity, and chronic heart conditions, among others — are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
 
To protect a vulnerable person in a household, people need to take some extra preventive steps at home.
 
Beyond the advice to wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, cover coughs and sneezes, and regularly clean and disinfect surfaces and frequently touched items, they should add these steps to their routine:
  • Maintain social distance, even in the house. The virus spreads mainly between people who are within 6 feet of each other, through droplets that spray when an infected person coughs or sneezes. If someone has a cough or feels like they’re going to sneeze, they should move away from others before it happens (and cover their mouth and nose with a bent elbow when it does).
  • Designate a “safe” part of the house for high-risk family members. If a family member is 60 or older, or immunocompromised, let them have their own space in the house where they mostly reside.
  • Keep track of any medical supplies your relative needs (oxygen, incontinence, dialysis, wound care) and create a back-up plan.
  • Don’t share personal items. Don’t share utensils, toothbrushes, toothpaste or other personal items with family members.
  • Designate one person to run errands and minimize the number of times that person needs to leave the house. Stock up on non-perishable food to have on hand in your home. When the designated errand-runner leaves the house, make sure they wear a mask, avoid touching things like door handles and elevator buttons with their hands, and maintain social distancing. Consider options for grocery delivery, curbside pick-up and take-out.
  • When returning home, wash hands immediately and disinfect any surfaces touched before handwashing (such as a door or faucet handle).
  • Isolate sick individuals. If a family member becomes sick, they should self-isolate in a single room and bathroom, according to their doctor’s advice. Have family members self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Keep a distance from delivery workers. If items are delivered, stay 6 feet away from workers. Wash hands after picking up mail and after handling packages or other items from outside the home. Pay for everything (including tips) online, if possible.
  • Don’t have guests over to the house right now. If a family member or friend must come over, maintain a 6-foot distance and keep them out of shared living areas.
  • Healthcare workers should clean up before they interact. Before they enter their home, workers should take off shoes and work clothes and put them in a plastic bag until they can be washed. Head straight for the shower (use separate soap and towels from the household) and change into clean clothes before interacting with family members.

For updates on COVID-19, check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.