Coronavirus, the mysterious illness blanketing the world courtesy of China, continues to spread. The United States has been, until this past weekend, spared breakout flares. They are occurring now. Soon, and with better and more ubiquitous testing, America’s COVID-19 numbers will spike. That will scare a lot of people. It shouldn’t. It’s what happens when the government broadens testing criteria and has more effective tests.
When local COVID-19 hotspots happen, some communities, school systems, hospital systems, etc. will be under quarantine. Many of those tangentially related to the outbreak will be asked to quarantine at home. It’s time to think ahead about this possibility. And it’s time to plan for how to handle it.
What’s your qualification to write about this, Melissa? You’re no epidemiologist. True enough. What I am, though, is the mom of a child who was immune compromised for over two years, and we spent one year in strict, home-based isolation. I’ve been through it twice. Once when my oldest was born prematurely and was released from the hospital at 4 pounds 6 ounces in October due to the incoming onslaught of RSV patients. It was safer for a baby who couldn’t yet fully regulate his temperature at home then it was in the Pediatric ICU. The second time, my son had Severe Aplastic Anemia. He had no immune system for about six months before being admitted for his bone marrow transplant. And then, he had a fledgling immune system for a year after he was released from the hospital.
I know all about n95 and n99 masks. I’ve worn them, as has my sick child. I’ve cleaned pic lines and administered medication. And then there’s all the environmental cleaning. There are the at-home procedures to keep the compromised person isolated while keeping other family members isolated, in the same house, to prevent the illness transferring. It’s not fun, but it is doable.
In this article, I’m going to write about quarantine. My recent articles have included the topics about coronavirus avoidance, preparing for a pandemic, how America’s vulnerabilities are being exposed, and how communism helped spread the coronavirus. My purpose is not to cause alarm, but to provoke people to prepare, be calm, and act reasonably.
There are a couple kinds of folks who make things worse. They need to be identified now. Do a gut check and make sure the person described is not you.
These folks inadvertently spread disease, reduce hospital effectiveness, and unnecessarily put their own lives and others in danger.
Now, to quarantine.
Environment: Hygiene is important, to say the least. Hygiene begins by minimizing contact. Interact with fewer people. Avoid crowds. Skip personal greetings like shaking hands, hugs, and kisses. No public spitting. This was outlawed in many places during the polio scourge. This rule should make a comeback.
Psychology: For introverts, quarantine is more an annoyance than anything. It means planning, but the isolation is doable. For extroverts, quarantine can be difficult. My extroverted son suffered. It bothered him when people forgot and didn’t call or get in touch. He was lonely. We kept him connected with a computer and video games. For those in quarantine, keep in touch socially. I had to laugh at the couple complaining about their two weeks in at-home isolation. Oh yes, a two-week burden. Americans are a spoiled lot and will have to get a grip. Two weeks or 10 weeks in isolation is doable. Have board games, books, cards, art projects. Get out the yoga mat and have family exercise.
Oh, and don’t have visitors. Just don’t.
Work: Can you work from home? So many workers can telecommute. Get it implemented as soon as possible. Quit all traveling for the time being. Minimize contact with people. Clean your phone every time you wash your hands.
If you’re in a service profession or retail where you must work, DO NOT GO TO WORK SICK. One of my family members is a massage therapist. Two of her coworkers came to work sick (last week!) and worked all day in an isolated room with healthy people. Their boss should have sent them home, but no one wants to lose income. This is how disease spreads. Sacrifice a couple days’ pay now, for money later. And for those going to the doctor with a cold or suspected flu, don’t go get a facial or massage or go to book club or church. Stay home.
When the worker gets home, shower and then wash clothes. In the old days, people had “house clothes.” This sort of thing was why. Farmers worked with animals and line workers worked with chemicals, etc. that needed to be washed away. Embrace this practice.
Home: If no one is sick, but you’re just at home because of a community threat and/or government quarantine, proceed as normal, cleaning-wise. The biggest decisions will be about who will be designated to shop and get supplies. The answer is to minimize trips. Order everything and have someone deliver it and do not interact with the delivery person.
Will a family member be required to work and interact with the public? How should that be handled? My quick thoughts are immediate showering when you get home, washing all clothes after working outside, having that person sleep separately, and having them wear a mask around everyone else unless everyone is 50 or younger. For those younger, it might be time to get the virus and be immune.
If someone has been exposed and is sick at home, keeping all surfaces bleached and clean will be vital. If possible, keep this person isolated in a room that has its own bathroom and a window. Keep the window open a crack. Keep the air conditioning or heat on to force air through the room. If the person isn’t too sick, s/he should clean his own bathroom, strip the bed and remake it, etc. Food should be brought to the room. The sick person should wear a mask for any interactions. There should be no sharing of towels, sheets, blankets, cups, etc. Use gloves and a mask to take dirty linens and wash them.
This is important: It is the DRYER that kills the germs. Dry for a minimum of an hour. Do not take sheets, towels, wash clothes, etc. out of the dryer damp. Let them get completely hot and dry. Read more here.
Personal hygiene: Step it up. There is no set number of times one should wash his hands every day, but here are some times to wash one’s hands:
Make sure to moisturize your hands to have an effective barrier, too.
Shower daily. Kitchen surfaces should be cleaned before and after use. The bathroom should be kept immaculate. Each person should have his own hand sanitizer.
There are those who believe that everyone is freaking out for no reason. It doesn’t matter, though, does it? If your children are sent home from school, or if your workplace has an explosion of infections, a person may be quarantined whether they think it’s stupid and an overreaction or not.
In the course of sparing hospitals from being overwhelmed with pneumonia patients, quarantine may be invoked not because of you, but because of the needs of others. Each person is part of a home and a community. We have a responsibility not just to our families but to our friends and strangers, too. Our dedication to our fellow man may be tested soon. I hope we pass the test.
Prepare. Slowly, steadily, rationally. Be ready.
Finally, give blood now, while you’re healthy. Go give blood and platelets if you can. There are shortages now. You can make a difference.