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Summit County Emergency Blog

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Activated during disasters and emergencies to provide critical public information. Administered by the Summit County Office of Emergency Management.

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Mar 31

Limiting the spread of COVID-19 within a home

Posted on March 31, 2020 at 8:30 AM by Sarah Wilkinson

Someone in my house is sick with flu-like illness.  They may have COVID-19.  How can I protect the rest of my household from also getting COVID-19?

Current CDC guidance for persons that have COVID-19 like symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.) includes a recommendation to stay at home and self-monitor for symptoms.  Most people who get sick will have mild illness and should recover at home.* Care at home can help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community and help protect people who are at risk for getting seriously ill.  

COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes and, to a lesser extent, from contaminated surfaces. If you are caring for someone at home, monitor for emergency signs, prevent the spread of germstreat symptoms, and carefully consider when to end home isolation.

Monitor the person for worsening symptoms. Know the emergency warning signs.

  • Have their healthcare provider’s contact information on hand.
  • If they are getting sicker, call their healthcare provider. For medical emergencies, call 911 and notify the dispatch personnel that they have or are suspected to have COVID-19.


If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include**:
  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face
**This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Prevent the spread of germs when caring for someone who is sick
Studies have demonstrated that COVID can spread within a household.  Taking the following precautions will further minimize the possibility of others becoming sick.  
  • Have the person stay in their own room as much as possible. If this is not possible, isolate their living area to the extent possible such as having a dedicated area within a shared room.
    • If possible, have them use a separate bathroom.
    • Avoid sharing personal household items, like dishes, towels, and bedding.
    • If facemasks are available, have them wear a facemask when they are around people, including you.
    • If the sick person can’t wear a facemask, you should wear one, if available, while in the same room with them.
    • If the sick person needs to be around others (within the home, in a vehicle, or doctor’s office), they should wear a facemask.
  • Household members need to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after interacting with the sick person. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. 
    • If you are unable to locate hand sanitizer, contact the Breckenridge Distillery (970 547-9759) or the county Emergency Operations Center (970 668-9730).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • High touch surfaces that may have been contaminated should be cleaned and disinfected daily.  Wear disposable gloves, if available, when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and discard when finished. Wash hands immediately after cleaning and disinfecting. 
    • Always follow instructions when using cleaning and disinfection products. 
    • If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
    • 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 may also be used if appropriate for the surface. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Leave solution on the surface for at least 1 minute.
    • To make a bleach solution, mix: 
      • 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water, OR
      • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
      • Verify that the bleach solution will not discolor the product prior to use.
    • For more information on cleaning and disinfecting (including information discussing differences between hard and soft surfaces) visit the CDC website.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly. 
    • If laundry is soiled, wear disposable gloves and keep the soiled items away from your body while laundering. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.
  • Avoid having any unnecessary visitors.
  • For any additional questions about their care, contact their healthcare provider.

Shopping
  • Only one person from a family should go shopping for household items (groceries, medicines, etc.) as needed. Minimize outings by planning your shopping trips so trips can be infrequent.  Every additional person in a store increases the odds of coronavirus spread.
  • Ask your healthcare provider and insurance carrier for approval of a 3 month supply of prescription medications for chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart conditions, cancer etc.
*Note: Older adults and people of any age with certain serious underlying medical conditions like lung disease, heart disease, or diabetes are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness and should seek care as soon as symptoms start.

For more information on limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus within a home, visit the CDC website