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Drew: What if a family member living with you gets COVID-19

By Samuetta Hill Drew

With Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, issuing a Stay-at-Home statewide order and social distancing being the safety practice for the nation how do families continue to protect themselves if a family member living with them contracts COVID – 19? This article will explore safety protective measures if there’s a family member outbreak. The recommendations will be based upon recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Again, some information contained in this article may have been featured in my prior articles on COVID – 19 but the serious nature of the virus, along with the dire predictions for April, dictates some level of repetitiveness.
Begin by designating a separate bedroom for the infected family member. This may be difficult for some depending upon the floor plan and/or size of your home. If you have limited space may I suggest you consider using a room in your home for the infected family member in a nontraditional way such as using the living room as a temporary bedroom. Also, children and others have slept on what we use to call “pallets” made from several bedspreads, blankets and quilts along with a pillow. Whatever the room selected, it should be disinfected often, as well as the entire house. The infected person should use a separate bathroom, if possible.
Note most people who get COVID – 19 will be able to recover at home by following the CDC directions. If their medical conditions worsen, they should seek additional medical attention immediately from a health care provider.
The infected person should stay away from others in the home and vice-versa. Provide your sick household member with clean disposable face masks to wear at home, if available, to help prevent spreading COVID – 19 to others. If the sick person is not able to wear a face mask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live with the sick person should not stay in the same room with them.
Dedicate a lined trash can for the infected person. Use gloves when removing garbage bags, and handling and disposing of trash. Wash hand afterwards. Soap and water are the best option and wash hands often.
When it comes to washing the infected person’s clothes you should wear gloves. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water as soon as you remove the gloves. Do not shake the dirty laundry. Launder items according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely. Some people opt to wash the sick person’s dirty laundry with the others. The CDC does not currently make a particular recommendation for them to be washed separately.  You should decide what’s best for you and your family. Clean and disinfect clothes hampers with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered household disinfectant. These disinfectants meet the EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19.
The infected person should eat (or be fed) in their room, if possible. Wash dishes and utensils using gloves and hot water.  Handle any non-disposable used food service items with gloves and wash with hot water or in a dishwasher. Clean hands after handling used food service items.
During these uncertain times the lyrics from an old Gladys Knight classic comes to mind. The lyrics say “You gotta make the best of a bad situation” and I’m saying Keep an Eye on Safety at every turn and in every situation.