ABC7 Solutions: What if your roommate gets COVID-19 and you can't move out?

CDC tips include sleeping head-to-toe, cleaning frequently and putting up a divider between beds.

Phillip Palmer Image
Monday, October 19, 2020
What if your roommate gets COVID-19?
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What do you do if you are in college far from home and your roommate tests positive for COVID-19 but you are unable to move out?

College students are remote learning, but in many cases they are doing so in apartments, with roommates, far from home.

Maya Winslow is a University of San Diego student from Denver. When her roommate tested positive for COVID-19, she wanted to avoid the same fate.

"I wasn't really sure what to do. And it's hard figuring that out on your own, especially when my parents are thousands of miles away."

It wasn't long before Maya and two of her roommates tested positive. But are there protocols that could have protected them or others like them who live in close quarters?

The CDC does provide some guidelines. Step one, if possible, is separate the household member who is sick - but with two people to a room that's not easy.

"It was so stressful not knowing where I could stay and be safe." Wilson said.

If you must share a room with someone who is sick, the CDC recommends you sleep head to toe and if possible put a shower curtain or physical divider between the beds. In addition, improve the room's airflow by opening a window or adding a fan.

While it's best not to share a bathroom, if you must, the COVID-19-positive roommate should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Anyone else should wait as long as possible before entering the bathroom.

Dr. Anu Seshadri with UCLA Health says: "If you are sick then you should take responsibility for not spreading respiratory droplets, anything like that, to people that are in your households that live with you. And then it is also your responsibility to not get sick."

For parents, who can feel helpless when their college-aged child is facing COVID-19, the experts suggest inform yourself through trusted websites like the CDC and don't forget to simply ask how your child is physically and mentally, but avoid what might be the first thing to pop into your head

"Highly, highly, highly do NOT recommend that the child come back home," Seshadri advises.

Even if you avoid contracting the coronavirus initially you must quarantine for 14 days, but if another roommate gets sick, your quarantine clock starts over.

"They will reset their clock for 14 days from the time that that last positive individual, that second positive individual became sick." Seshadri warns.

And while it may be unwelcome advice, if someone in your apartment has COVID-19, wear masks even when inside while using common areas like the kitchen or living room.