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Social Graces: Your roommate has COVID-19. Here’s how to handle the quarantine situation.

Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: You live with roommates, and one of you tests positive for COVID-19. How do you address the quarantine situation?

A: You want to have designated rooms and designated spaces. The person who tested positive gets the bedroom with the bathroom attached, if there is one. You also want to keep belongings separate — coats and hats shouldn’t be hung up together. That’s huge. We always say, “Practice makes permanent,” so do the same things every day. Don’t switch it up.

So what happens if you don’t have multiple bedrooms? The person who did not test positive sleeps on the couch or pull-out mattress in the living room. If you don’t have a second restroom, make sure the one you have gets cleaned vigorously. Keep towels and washcloths in the designated rooms, not in the restroom. That’s extremely important as well.

Another important aspect is mental wellness. You can watch the same program on TV and text each other during the show. If you know the person who is sick loves Chipotle, you can pick it up on Thursdays — things like that. Part of being safe is being both physically and mentally healthy. So we encourage the healthy person to walk around with a mask for a short distance in low-traffic areas, staying away from other people.

Lastly, the most important thing we can do as a community is to wear a mask because wearing a mask works.

— Dr. Christopher Colbert, assistant emergency medicine residency director and professor of clinical emergency medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago

A: If we are suspicious that our roommate might have COVID-19, because we are witnessing certain symptoms, we can advise her or him to get tested. Not everyone agrees with testing, so we need to treat the situation carefully and politely. We should be careful either way, whether the roommate got tested or not.


We should revisit the rules we are all aware of, such as staying 6 feet away from one another, not sharing household items, avoiding being in the same room and not sharing phones or watching videos or movies together.

But we shouldn’t be paranoid. If you want to be a truly good roommate, make a dish or prepare a cup of soup for your sick roommate.

We definitely do not want the sick person to feel ignored, isolated or a heavy burden to the rest of us. We should all work as a team to create a great environment for our roommate, opening the windows for fresh air, offering to buy things the roommate might need and, in general, trying to be good humans.

In many situations, the roommate might not have any family in town, and vulnerable people need strong support. I hope we all can be good roommates during these difficult times and support one another mentally, emotionally and physically.

— Maryanne Parker, etiquette expert

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