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Self isolating when you live with roommates

Self isolating when you live with roommates

Page last updated: 03/30/2020

On March 13th, the US was placed in a state of national emergency as a result of the rapid spread of COVID-19 (or Coronavirus).

What does this mean for you and your roommates?

In a nutshell: if one roommate shows symptoms (a new continuous cough and/or a high temperature), you should all stay at home – and not leave the house at all for 14 days.

It’s really likely that those living together will infect each other or already be infected, so staying at home for this period will greatly reduce the amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community.

This also means you should all try to plan ahead and organize deliveries for any essentials you need (groceries etc), to avoid being around members of the public in a potentially busy grocery store or supermarket.

If any of you can’t currently work from home, speak to your employer and explain the situation – to see how they can help during this period. It might be useful to plan out the period you’ll be at home and find activities to keep you all busy (if you’re not sick) – it’s a good opportunity to take up a new language, watch films, read books or finesse your cooking skills.

What to do if you have a vulnerable person living with you

If one of your roommates is considered to be vulnerable (i.e. has an underlying health condition, and/or is aged over 65), you should try to keep 6 feet away from this person where possible.

If they can, they should use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household, and use separate towels for both bathing and drying their hands. If you do share a bathroom, you should clean it after every use – ensuring you use antibacterial spray and wipe down all surfaces you come into contact with.

Avoid using the kitchen if the vulnerable person is present – if possible they should try to take their meals back to their room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean glassware and cutlery – otherwise wash them using your usual dish soap and warm water, and dry them thoroughly. If the vulnerable person uses their own cooking and eating utensils, use a separate towel to dry them.

It can be really difficult to stay separate from someone you live with, but try to follow this guidance as closely as possible. It’s also essential for the whole household to wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and keep frequently touched surfaces clean.

Other things to note

The best way to prevent this illness is to avoid being exposed as much as possible.

And don’t forget to keep washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds, keep your distance (6 feet) when you do have to go outside, and be extra careful if you share a home with a vulnerable person.

If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition worsens contact your medical provider immediately for further instruction.

Back to all COVID-19 advice >>


Although we endeavour to keep our coronavirus (COVID-19) content as accurate and as up to date as possible, the situation is rapidly changing, so please refer to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the latest advice and information.