How to Self-Quarantine at Home
A national emergency has been declared. Coronavirus cases are rising. The likelihood that you may soon be exposed is increasing. You will need to know what to do if you do get exposed and have to self-quarantine.
Assume someone in your home now has the flu or coronavirus. The germs can go from one family member to another. What are you going to do to reduce the risks to everyone else?
There are numerous ways you can reduce the risks and try to keep the coronavirus from spreading. This expanding list is derived from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization guidance.
Identify and isolate the threat
This is the key concept. Protecting yourself at home requires you to identify every primary pathway and take action to segregate and eliminate the risks. The first objective is to identify the source then block the pathway to prevent the transport of germs from the source to you or anyone else.
The first source is an infected person. The person needs to be isolated, treated and kept away from others.
The second objective is to clean and disinfect every surface they have potentially contaminated. You then need to identify every possible secondary touch point — places where germs may have been left for you to pick up, carry with you or ingest.
Coronavirus can be sprayed in the air, travels in the air and drops on liquid and solid surfaces where it can survive for up to eight hours. This is why it is easy to pick up the virus and get sick without realizing it. Germs from an infected and contagious person can be left on any surface that they touch.
The most common touch points are doorknobs, light switches, cell phones, desk and table tops, TV remotes, water faucets, toilets, sinks and items near their heads in the bedroom they sleep in. But it also includes chairs, couches, glass, mirrors, pencils, paper, the floor, carpets, books, even plant leaves and animals.
If you need to self-quarantine
Self-monitor the healthy people. Check the temperatures of healthy people twice a day. Be on the lookout for symptoms and changes in people who come into contact with a sick person. Remain alert for fever, coughing, fatigue, weakness, lethargy and any difficulty breathing. If someone starts exhibiting symptoms, then they should self-isolate, limit contact with others and call their doctor, health-care providers or the local health department.
Plan what you need. Make a list of all the basic necessities you have on hand and what you will need for two to four weeks. Build a shopping list. Shop online, pay with a credit card and have it delivered. If you cannot do that, call a friend or family member who can, send them the list by email or text, and have them shop for you. Get it delivered it to your door or porch.
Be wary of misinformation on the Internet. Place higher trust in the most authoritative sources of information such as the Myth Busters page from the World Health Organization.
Create a list of emergency contacts. Create a list of the key people you will need to have on call. This includes your spouse, family, best friends, doctor, insurance company, hospital, school officials, day care providers, county health department and police. Place these numbers in your cell phone. Duplicate the list and share it with a close friend, family member or companion who will help you if the need arises.
Create a family emergency plan handbook. Get a notebook or use your computer to create a list of the things that need to be done. Create a checklist and turn it into an action plan. Identify the chores that need to be done, the actions that need to be completed and how frequently the actions need to be completed. Identify people to take responsibility by name. Place the plan on the kitchen table or share it with them so that every member of the family knows what to do.
Get appropriate help if conditions worsen. Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (eg. difficulty breathing). But do not go without calling first. Place a facemask and disposable gloves on both you and on the sick person if responders or anyone else comes to help you. Do the same if you go to an urgent care or other health care facility to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
Stay home. Formal quarantines, if ordered by law, may result in legal enforcement actions if violated. That means no shopping, dog walking, health clubs and restaurants. You can order food from restaurants and grocery stores and pay by credit card, but they will likely require a no contact delivery. The food will have to be paid for in advance and left at the door.
Isolate the sick person. Healthy people should avoid the sick person. They are usually required to stay home and away from others for at least 24 hours after their fever returns to normal. People who have been exposed to coronavirus are being asked to self-quarantine for up to 14 days. People who are sick should not go anywhere they can spread the illness. This means they must stay in one place in the house and avoid going into rooms that other people will use.
Active monitoring by health caregivers. Caregivers or family members should monitor and record symptoms and patient temperatures in writing. If you are not able to visit in person, then use calls, videos or text messages several times a day to ensure you monitor effectively.
Cover your mouth. Coronavirus spreads by the release of virus-laden droplets from the mouth and nose of an infected person. These droplets can be inhaled by another person. Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough, sneeze, blow your nose or spit up phlegm. Make sure you throw the used tissues away. Immediately wash your hands and face.
Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes. Do not place your fingers in your mouth or nose. Do not touch the area around your lips. Do not moisten your fingers with your tongue and then touch something else. These are incredibly hard habits to break. Learning to keep your hands away from your face and mouth can be very difficult. Whatever gets on your fingers and goes into your mouth can infect you. Whatever you touch is on your fingers and hands and can contaminate whatever you touch and infect other people.
Wash your hands and face frequently. Use warm water and soap. Scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse and dry with a dedicated hand towel or use paper towels. Color code them so it is easy to keep towels separate from other people. Dispose of paper towels immediately after use. Wash every time you use the bathroom. Wash before eating and after eating. Wash after coming home.
Use alcohol-based sanitizers. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer, making sure it contailns at least 60 percent alcohol. Set up a sanitizer station in the bathroom, in the kitchen and by the doors and entryways. Sanitize after every contact with a potentially contaminated surface.
Limit contract and avoid being in close proximity with family members who are sick. Keep the sick person at home. Give them a dedicated bedroom and bathroom. Limit close contact and touching between the sick person, pets and other members of the family. Isolate the sick person and avoid letting them sleep in the same room as anyone else.
Ban visitors, outsiders, workers or guests. Do not let healthy friends, relatives, employees, contractors or visitors come inside your house if someone is sick. Do not get closer than 8 feet to a sick person. Do not let delivery people, repair people, housekeepers or dog walkers in the house.
Use face masks and gloves. Have the sick person wear a face mask and disposable gloves when other people come into their room or close. Have caregivers wear a face mask and gloves when entering the room of the sick person or coming close to them with food and medications. Masks and gloves need to be treated as contaminated after use and disposed of properly. Wash your hands after touching contaminated masks and gloves.
Avoid touching and sharing personal and household items. Give the sick person their own washcloths, towels, dishes, clothes, handkerchiefs, toys, utensils, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, medicines, water bottles, toothpaste, soaps, cups, glasses, bedding, blankets, sheets, pillows, pillowcases — anything they contact or use.
Avoid sharing common items. Move other people’s personal items out of the same rooms being used by the sick person. Keep everything separate to avoid contaminating clean products, clothes and food items. Switch to paper plates and plastic utensils for the sick person. Throw all leftovers away.
Limit contact with pets and animals. Research shows that viruses are carried on wet surfaces and this this includes the fur and bodily fluids of pets. Restrict contact with pets and animals. Avoid letting dogs and cats snuggle, kiss or lick you.
Create home disinfectant solutions in quantity. CDC Guidance states that for disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. Diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted. Prepare a bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.
Clean, disinfect or dispose of anything contaminated. Treat everything the sick person touches and uses as contaminated. Pay special attention to anything that has blood, spit, phlegm, stool or any other bodily fluids on them. Keep their garbage separate and away from others. Place their garbage inside a second plastic bag and tie it closed when done. Wear disposable gloves when handling contaminated items, keeping them away from your body. Wash your hands immediately after removing and disposing of the gloves.
Avoid being in common areas. Do not have the sick person in close proximity to healthy family members and friends. This means they should not be lying down on the couch wrapped up in a blanket watching TV in the family room with everyone else nearby. Do not eat meals or even snacks in the same room at the same time or in close proximity to the sick person. The risk of infecting others is dramatically higher when a sick person is close to people when they are eating food.
Clean and disinfect everything. Virus-laden droplets can be sprayed, fall on and adhere to any surface. Go through your house room by room. Identify and then clean every frequently-touched surface. Give special attention to the kitchen on every surface and every item which is used where food is prepared or eaten. Common hot spots for germs include sink handles, refrigerator and stove handles and knobs, kitchen sponges, countertops, cutting boards, desktops, light switches, door handles, toilets, bathtubs and showers, and so on. Microwave your sponge on high for one minute or just grab a new one. Use the high temperature sanitize settings on your dishwasher. Wash dishes and silverware thoroughly with soap and dry carefully.
Check with your local health department. Find out how to deal with contaminated items and property. Check to get the latest guidance if you are considering taking contaminated clothes, bedding or laundry items to a communal laundry or sending them to a commercial laundromat.
Wash the sick person’s personal items carefully. If someone in the house is sick, take special care when washing their things. While you don’t need to wash their clothes separately, separate their clothing in the room they are staying and do not scoop up their clothes in your arms and hold them close to your body, your clothes or your mouth and nose. Wear gloves and avoid touching their clothes as you do the laundry. Use laundry soap and dry on a hot setting. Always wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.
Warn visitors. Do not let healthy people into a sick home. Do not let a sick person come in contact with healthy people. Limit contacts with the sick person to the maximum degree possible.
Clean. Touch. Clean again. Carry disinfecting wipes and spray bottles with you. Clean something before you touch it. Then touch it. When done, clean it again so you reduce the risks for the next person. Protect yourself and others. Leave everything cleaner than when you go there.
Discontinuing home isolation. Stay at home until you have been instructed to leave. Patients with confirmed coronavirus should remain in home isolation until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low. Talk to your healthcare provider. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.