At-Risk: With COVID Running Wild in Eastie, the CDC Has Some Recommendations for Large Households

Rep. Adrian Madaro and Mayor Martin Walsh agree that more needs to be done in East Boston to contain the recently rapid spread of COVID-19 among residents. 

Both have been briefed by healthcare experts that put some of the blame in the recent dramatic rise in infection rates and positive test rates (nearly 11 percent) among residents to overcrowding and density. 

Madaro and Walsh have called on the state to expand access to isolation sites in at-risk communities like Eastie for residents and workers who cannot quarantine at home without putting their families at risk. Isolation sites will help reduce family spread – a major component of COVID infection rates in East Boston. As housing in Eastie becomes more expensive and hard to find, Madaro said most Eastie workers live in apartments that are full of family or roommates, and short on space. 

“People share rooms,” he said recently. “When everyone’s living together in a small space, there aren’t many opportunities for social distance. This means that when a worker gets sick, they have nowhere to quarantine. This puts the rest of their household at higher risk of contracting COVID. Reports indicate that this kind of “family spread” is one of the top ways that COVID is spreading in East Boston.”

Until a plan is hatched to increase temporary isolation sites, the Center for Disease Control has released some recommendations on to isolate a sick household member when household space is limited

“If you cannot provide a separate room and bathroom for a person who is sick with COVID-19, try to separate them from other household members,” wrote the CDC in a multi page bulletin. “Try to create adequate separation within your household to protect everyone, especially those people at higher risk (those over 65 years and those who have medical conditions).

Following key tips when isolating a household member who is sick may reduce other household members from catching the virus. 

These tips from the CDC include:

• Keep six feet between the person who is sick and other household members.

• Cover coughs and sneezes; wash hands often; and don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Have the sick household member wear a mask when they are around other people at home and out (including before they enter a doctor’s office). But it should not be placed on children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is not able to remove the covering without help. 

•  Keep people at higher risk separated from anyone who is sick. Have only one person in the household take care of the person who is sick. This caregiver should be someone who is not at higher risk for severe illness. The caregiver should clean where the sick person has been, as well as their bedding and laundry. The caregiver should minimize contact with other people in the household, especially

• those who are at higher risk for severe illness. Have a caregiver for the person who is sick and a different caregiver for other members of the household who require help with cleaning, bathing, or other daily tasks.

• Clean and disinfect surfaces, doorknobs, and other commonly touched surfaces with EPA registered disinfectants daily. 

• Limit visitors to those with an essential need to be in the home.

• Don’t share personal items like phones, dishes, bedding, or toys.

• Try to do the following if you need to share a bedroom with someone who is sick: Make sure the room has good airflow. Open a window and turn on a fan to bring in fresh air. Place beds at least six feet apart, if possible. Sleep head to toe. Put a curtain around or place another physical divider to separate the bed of the person who is sick from other beds. For example, you might use a shower curtain, room screen divider, large cardboard poster board, quilt, or large bedspread.

• Have the person who is sick clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in a shared bathroom. If this is not possible, others who share the bathroom should wait as long as possible after the sick person uses the bathroom before entering it to clean and disinfect or to use the bathroom. Make sure the room has good airflow. Open a window and turn on a fan (if possible) to bring in and circulate fresh air.

The CDC also included tips on how to eat meals together and feed a household member who is sick. The CDC recommends, if possible, make a plate for the sick household member to eat in the separate area they are staying in. If they cannot eat in the separate area they are staying in, they should stay at least 6 feet away from other members of the household during meals or they should eat at a different time than others in the household.

Other eating tips include:

• Don’t help prepare food if you are sick.

• Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before eating. This includes everyone in the household!

• Use clean utensils when placing food on every household member’s plate. Don’t eat from the same dishes or use the same utensils as someone else in the household.

• Wear gloves to handle dishes, drinking glasses, and utensils (food service items), if possible. Also, wash these non-disposable items with hot water and soap or in a dishwasher after you use them.

• Have only one person bring food to the sick person and cleanup the sick person’s food service items. This should be someone who is not at higher risk for severe illness.

• Wash your hands after handling used food service items.

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