Since the coronavirus is known to spread through close human contact, it's important to slow spread by working from home when possible and avoiding large events. But if, like many city-dwellers, you live with roommates, keeping yourself safe could take a few extra steps.
Health experts know that the coronavirus spreads through droplets when someone coughs or sneezes and those droplets touch another person or nearby surface. For that reason, having in-depth conversations about what to do in the event you or your roommates get ill is essential, according to Dr. Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist who specializes in combating global health security threats.
"I think the biggest thing is just encouraging transparency between people, because whether there's COVID-19 in the world or not, we should stay home when we're sick and try and avoid spreading that to other people," Popescu said.
She suggested creating a contingency plan with anyone you live with to ensure you're on the same page hygiene-wise and know how to keep each other safe in the event one roommate gets
Focus on CDC recommendations and ramp up your hand-washing
If you and your roommates are currently healthy, you should start by agreeing to all follow the CDC's recommendations for coronavirus prevention.
According to Popescu, ramping up your hand-washing habits is the best way to stay safe.
This includes washing your hands for 20 seconds with soapy warm water before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, and after touching public surfaces like door knobs, subway poles, and counters.
It's a good idea to avoid spaces with large groups of people, like concerts and conferences, Popescu said, although coffee shops and restaurants are OK.
You should also come up with a schedule for deep-cleaning surfaces used regularly in your home, especially in the kitchen, bathroom, and shared spaces.
"I would highly recommend using an EPA-registered disinfectantbecause I've seen a lot of people say, 'Oh, I use this natural homemade one,' and I would not encourage that," Popescu said.
Bleach sprays are most effective for cleaning surfaces, and Lysol and Clorox wipes are also effective.
You and your roommates could create a list of the cleaning supplies and non-perishable food items you think are most important and work together to build up a supply, Dr. Alexandra Stockwell, a relationship expert and author of "Uncompromising Intimacy," told Insider.
Have a plan in place if anyone in your home falls ill
You and your roommates should also discuss impending travel plans and if you have any underlying illnesses that could make you more susceptible to getting the coronavirus.
"If it happens that one roommate travels and may become exposed, then who's going to be quarantined in the apartment and who's going to move out? It's important to know one another's concerns so that if anything relevant occurs, they make sure to communicate promptly about it," Stockwell said.
For example, your roommates may decide that the person who is travelling out of state next month should stay somewhere else upon their return if another roommate is immunocompromised. Or, you may decide it's best to cancel all travel plans.
You should also discuss what a CDC-approved self-quarantinewould look like in your shared home if a roommate tested positive for COVID-19.
"It can be very awkward to have conversations where there's disagreement with a roommate, but this is one of those scenarios where it is totally worth the effort," Stockwell said.