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How to Protect the Most Vulnerable in Shared Households

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If you live in a small apartment or home during COVID-19, it is important to understand how to protect those in your home who have underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised.

Limit the Risk

If your household has one or more vulnerable people, it is important for all family members to act as if they themselves are at higher risk from complications of COVID-19.

Limit Errands

All family members should only leave when absolutely necessary. Essential errands include going to the grocery store, pharmacy or medical appointments that cannot be delayed. If you must leave the house, here are some tips to follow:

  • Choose one or two family members who are low risk to run essential errands
  • Always wear cloth face coverings, avoid crowded places, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently
  • Use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others. If necessary, to use public transportation
    • Maintain at least a 6-foot distance from others
    • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces such as handrails, and wash hands or use hand sanitizer
    • Commute during less busy times, especially when using public transportation

Avoid Caring for Children and Those Who Are Sick

Those who are vulnerable to more serious illness should avoid caring for children in their household. If those at a higher risk must care for the children in their household, the children in their care should not have any contact with others outside of the household. Members of the household who are at high risk should also avoid taking care of people of any age who are sick.

Separate Household Members Who Are Sick

Providing a separate bedroom and bathroom for the person who is sick is ideal, if possible. If you’re unable to provide separate living quarters, try to separate them from other household members as much as possible. Keep those at higher risk separated from anyone who is sick.

  • Only one person in the household should take care of the person who is sick, if possible. The caregiver should be not at high risk for severe illness and should minimize contact with others.
  • Another family member who is not the caregiver should help other members of the household who require cleaning, bathing or other daily necessities.
  • Maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other family or household members.
  • If rooms are shared with the person who is sick, make sure the room has good air flow.
    • Open the windows and turn on a fan to circulate fresh air
    • Sleep with one person laying with their head at the top of the bed and another person upside down with their head at the bottom of the bed.
    • Maintain at least 6 feet between beds
    • Put a curtain or divider such as a large cardboard poster board, quilt or large bedspread to separate the ill person’s bed
  • If sharing a bathroom is inevitable, the person who is sick should clean and disinfect the frequently touched surfaces.
    • Open outside doors and windows before entering and using ventilating fans to increase air circulation
    • Wait if possible before entering the bathroom to clean and disinfect it
  • Do not help prepare food if you are sick and eat separately from the other members in your household.

The information in this blog post is accurate at the time of publication. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change, it's possible that information has changed since being published. While Ochsner Health is trying to keep our blog posts as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC website.

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