So what should you do if someone in your share house tests positive? Head for the hills in your tent? High-tail it back to mum and dad’s? Shack up at your partner’s place?
These options aren’t available to all of us — some simply have to stay put and self-isolate in our share house. Here’s how you can make it work.
If someone in share house has Covid, it can be tempting to throw in the zero-Covid towel and just let yourself catch it, especially if you consider yourself young and healthy. But reports of how long Covid’s ongoing symptoms months show up after the disease has ended should put you off. You may not suffer much from the acute disease, but no one needs to risk long-term debilitation.
So even if the person in the next room has Covid, do your absolute best not to contract it yourself. Your body will thank you for it!
If you haven’t already, make a Covid prep plan with your flatmates:
1. Find out if any of your flatties have conditions that predispose them to suffer more with Covid, such as diabetes or a suppressed immune system. These are the people who will need the most protection in the event of a Covid case at home.
2. Choose a room for self-isolation. We’ve all heard that if you have an ensuite bedroom, that’s where infected people should isolate, since they can have the bathroom to themselves. If that means you have to switch rooms for the isolation period, make it happen. This won’t be forever, but it will keep you all a lot safer.
3. No ensuites in your house? Make the self-isolation bedroom the one that’s closest to the bathroom, and ideally one that doesn’t require the sick person to come through the living area or kitchen.
4. Covid is airborne, so make sure the door to the self-iso room seals well (you can buy adhesive seals at your local hardware for very little), that its windows open, and that they don’t open right next to the air intake for your living room aircon. Also work out how you’ll ensure maximum airflow through the rest of your place while your flatmate is isolating: opening doors and windows is the easiest way to keep replacing the air that’s inside with fresh air.
5. Don’t live somewhere where you can get home delivery? Consider setting up a support network with friends or family who live nearby, and can bring you supplies if you need to lock down at home. Perhaps work out a roster with your other household members for providing meals to your Covid-positive housemate while they’re in self-isolation. Finally, maybe cook ahead, and freeze those meals to reheat in the instance that you’re sick yourself, and want to have some soothing old favourites at the ready.
6. Stock up on disinfectant, masks, tissues, cleaning cloths, paracetamol or ibuprofen, Hydralyte to keep your Covid sufferer hydrated, and a thermometer and pulse oximeter to keep track of their temperature and blood oxygen levels. Also make sure everyone in the household has at least two weeks’ supply of regular medications on hand at any time, so no one’s caught short if you need to lock down.
Once your flatmate tests positive, you can’t assume that you don’t have Covid until you get a negative result yourself. And let’s face it: testing’s not that easy to do right now. On top of that, if you have a Covid-positive flatmate, you’ll need to isolate for 7 days anyway. Bottom line: you might as well act like you have Covid (without giving up on trying not to get it!) as soon as your housemate gets the bad news.
What does that mean? It means stay home. Avoid contact with others — even others in your home (because while you’re all assuming you have Covid, some or all of you may not, and you don’t want to be the one to inadvertently infect anyone). Sure, put that Covid-positive person into the self-iso room you’ve agreed on, but don’t then kick back in the lounge yourself: stick to your room, only leaving for food or toilet breaks. And when you do leave your room? Wear a mask!
If someone at your place gets Covid, you’ll want to disinfect common areas they’ve used and as you deliver food to their room and take the used dishes away over the duration of their isolation, you’ll want to disinfect the doorknob, the dishes, your hands after you take their rubbish to the bin and so on.
But don’t just treat the door to your flattie’s self-iso cave as a hazard zone: with Covid in the house, it’s a good idea to routinely disinfect all common areas on the daily — at least twice daily, actually. Wipe down all the surfaces with disinfectant, and don’t forget things like doors, lamps, light switches and heating or cooling controls.
During this time, be scrupulous about home hygiene generally. Keep the bathroom disinfected — that is, disinfect it after each use. Wash up and disinfect the kitchen after each meal. Wash your bed linen in hot water and let it dry in the sun if that’s at all possible, and dispense with hand towels in the kitchen and bathroom — use paper towel instead, or give each person their own hand towel, and hang them separately, so there’s no cross-contamination.
Last but not least, of course it’s important to look out for each other as you self-isolate. Keep track of the condition of your flattie who’s tested positive — with a pulse oximeter if possible, but definitely with a thermometer.
Don’t let them be a hero and tough it out; if you’re seriously worried about your flatmate’s deteriorating condition, follow the Government’s health advice, call Nurse On Call, call your local GP, and if they’re having trouble breathing, call an ambulance. In the meantime, keep them supplied with whatever they need, from good books to tissues and ginger tea, and hopefully you’ll all be out of the Covid woods before you know it.