Health care workers in the U.S. have started self-isolating due to the fear of bringing coronavirus home. This includes measures like sleeping in the basement or in separate bedrooms, using separate bathrooms, and implementing a do-not-cross-this-point policy. Some have even considered renting an apartment for those who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Health care is an essential part of life. But during these uncertain times, and with the fear of contracting COVID-19 or carrying it home to loved ones, taking extra precautions when working around or directly with COVID-19 patients is necessary.
As a health care worker, the following measures are recommended for you as you continue to provide care for COVID-19 patients:
- Self-monitor for COVID-19-like symptoms (i.e., fever, cough and shortness of breath). Symptoms may vary from person to person so make sure to also monitor for emergency warning signs (i.e., trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse and bluish lips or face, and any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.)
- Take your temperature twice a day.
- Wipe your car down with bleach wipes.
- Wipe your phone/other items down with antimicrobial solution.
- Do NOT bring shoes into your house; use the same shoes each day and spray with disinfecting spray before getting into your car.
- Have a designated change room in your house.
- Wash your clothes and dry them in the dryer; do not air dry.
- Shower as soon as you get home from work.
- If you may have been exposed to COVID-19, self-isolate within your house (if possible).
- If there is known exposure to COVID-19, self-isolate within your house or away from home/family if someone in your family is at high risk.
Additionally, it is important that you continue practicing the following preventive actions everyday just like everyone should be doing:
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow. Don’t forget to throw used tissues in the trash – should be a lined trash can.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol – make sure to cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily (e.g., tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks) using a regular household detergent and water.
- Use disinfectants that meet the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the disinfectant. Many products recommend precautions, such as keeping the surface wet for several minutes to ensure germs are killed or wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
- Avoid sharing food, drinks and personal household items (e.g., dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels or bedding) with other people living in your house. After using personal household items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or place them in the dishwasher.
- Identify a separate “sick room” and bathroom (if available) in your house if you or a family member is sick. Plan to clean and disinfect these rooms, especially the high-touch surfaces. Let someone else in your family clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas of your house.
- If you are sick, wear a facemask (if available) when you are around any family member (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle). However, you should maintain social distancing by limiting close contact with others as much as possible (about 6 feet) and avoiding large family gatherings.
“How Front-Line Health Care Providers Can Keep Their Families Safe,” Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, March 18, 2020.
“Clinical and Public Health Guidance for Managing COVID-19 Interim Guidance,” Illinois Department of Public Health, March 18, 2020.
“US medical workers self-isolate amid fears of bringing coronavirus home,” Jessica Glenza, The Guardian, March 19, 2020.
“Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed April 2, 2020.