How do we protect ourselves at home during coronavirus: 4 questions answered | Wednesday Morning Coffee

March 25, 2020 7:12 am

(Getty Images)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Hope you’re well rested and ready to embark on what feels like Day No. 3,547 of #WFHLife. Over here at our little bunker, we’re cuing up some Ken Burns sad violin music and throwing another log on the camp fire as we get ready to pen this morning’s epistle to you, the devoted Morning Coffee subscriber.

Actually, what we’re really doing is turning things over to a trio of experts from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, not one of whom, college hoops devotees may be disappointed to learn, is named Tarkanian.

But UNLV public health experts Brian LabusCasey Barber, and Shawn Gerstenberger do have some tips about how to keep yourselves safe and healthy when working from home, and, more importantly, what you need to do if you’re sharing your hearth with someone contending with COVID-19. They wrote the piece below for The Conversationwhere it first appeared.

(Screen Capture)

1. How do we protect ourselves from each other?

The idea behind social distancing is to create physical separation that reduces each individual’s risk of infection. While staying home in order to limit contact with others is straightforward, your contact isn’t really limited unless you live alone. While you can’t avoid your family members altogether, you will have to think about your living situation and take reasonable steps that are appropriate for you and your family.

If there is someone with a compromised immune system in your home, the other family members should act as if they are a risk of infection to that person. They should limit direct contact with the compromised person as much as possible and wash their hands before any contact, just as a health care worker would. Family members with compromised immune systems should also maintain a six-foot separation from other family member when possible. They should stay home and allow other family members to run errands such as picking up food or prescriptions for them.

During these uncertain and stressful times, it is important that we maintain our emotional interactions with others. You can still use text messages, phone calls or video chat to be part of each others’ lives. However, it is not the time for sleepovers, travel to visit relatives or friends, playdates, parties or small group gatherings. It is also not the time to visit older family members or friends at high risk of disease.

(Young woman in coronaviruse home isolation)

2. What if someone in my household has been exposed?

Just because a person has been exposed does not mean that they will get sick. The purpose of self-quarantine is to keep exposed people away from well people so that if they do become sick, they don’t spread their illness.

Before schools and businesses closed, a person under self-quarantine stayed home while the rest of the family went about their normal lives. As everyone is now staying at home, you might be forced to spend more time in close contact with someone who has been exposed to a known case of coronavirus.

Infected people may be able to spread the virus before the symptoms begin, but experts don’t yet know how likely they are to infect others and when they become infectious. This is why it is important that an exposed person limits contact with others in their household. While other members of the household don’t need to do anything in particular, people under self-quarantine should:

• Practice social distancing with other household members, which means staying at least six feet away. If possible, stay in a separate room.

• Practice good hygiene and wash their hands regularly.

• Avoid sharing household items or eating utensils.

• Clean high-touch surfaces, including your phone, game controllers, remotes, light switches, faucets and toilet handles, regularly. But be mindful of using strong chemicals in enclosed spaces, as improperly used chemicals can cause eye or throat irritation or breathing problems.

If the person does not develop the disease within 14 days of exposure, the risk has passed and the person no longer needs to self-quarantine.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine speaks to journalists during an online briefing on Thursday, 3/19/20 about the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak in the Keystone State (Screen Capture).

3. One of us is sick. What do I do now?

If you have to take care of a sick family member, you must also protect yourself. There are additional things that both of you can do to protect your health:

• Isolate the sick person from other people in the household in a separate room if possible.

• Have only a single family member care for that person, minimizing the risk to other family members.

• In addition to everyone practicing regular hand-washing, the caregiver should wash their hands after any direct contact with the sick person.

• The sick person should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, then discard it.

• Don’t share household items or eating utensils.

• If the weather permits, open windows to increase ventilation.

You should continue these practices until the person is no longer infectious. Because testing is difficult to obtain, you can stop these steps 72 hours after symptoms have resolved and at least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

4. What if I can’t do these things?

Many of these actions, such as hand-washing and cleaning, can be done by anyone, even if several people are living in a small household. While putting a sick relative in a separate room is ideal, it may not be an option in a small space. In that case, the sick person should stay at least six feet away from everyone else. The sick person should wear a mask if they have one to limit the spread of their infection. If you don’t have a mask, a bandana or scarf may provide some protection against spreading disease to other family members as well.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Stephen Caruso 
leads our coverage this morning with his dispatch on a state House vote to advance a bill changing the state’s April 28 primary dateCaruso also has this interactive graphic of state police actions against businesses refusing to comply with the Wolf administration’s shut-down order.

Childcare providers are seeking $100M to help them ride out the COVID-19 pandemicElizabeth Hardison reports. She also runs down the latest count of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in the state.

Lawmakers, the Wolf administration and the trade group representing Pa. hospitals are negotiating a COVID-19 emergency relief fund. A similar fund in Washington state hit about $200 million, your favorite newsletter author writes.

Associate Editor Cassie Miller continues her series of conversations with the women running for office in 2020. This time it’s Julie Slomski, a Democrat running for state Senate in Erie County’s 49th Senate District.

Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper has issued a stay-at-home order for her northwestern Pennsylvania county, Erie Correspondent Hannah McDonald reports. And McDonald has this look at the unique ways that Pennsylvania’s libraries are trying to stay connected with their patrons.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune: City officials and Hahnemann Hospital’s owner are haggling over using the facility to treat COVID-19 patients. And city school Superintendent William Hite says that might be about it for the 2019-2020 school year.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Dillsburg, York County, native Becky Kimmel says the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of how interconnected we are to nature. And with erratic messaging coming out of the White House, other leaders are stepping up to calm a nervous nation, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan writes.

Photo by (

Pennsylvania’s economy is ‘ill-prepared’ for a coronavirus downturnThe Inquirer reports.
The Post-Gazette has the details on Allegheny County’s second COVID-19 death.
Pennsylvania’s school districts are preparing for a permanent shutdownPennLive reports.
Lehigh Valley students with the least, risk losing the most during the coronavirus school shutdown, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

New Jersey now has the second-highest tally of COVID-19 cases nationwide, WHYY-FM reports.
The Wolf administration’s shutdown order goes too far, some business owners tell the PA Post.
Prisons are ‘bacteria factories,’ reports, highlighting another population at-risk in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pennsylvania should delay its primaryPoliticsPA’s readers have concluded.
The Trump White House and Senate leaders got a deal on a stimulus package overnight on Tuesday. Roll Call has the details.

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 11a.m. for a mostly virtual session. The Senate remains on a 12-hour. call.
Time TBD (But probs 2 p.m.): Daily COVID-19 briefing

Heavy Rotation.
Play this one loud. Here’s Alabama Shakes and ‘Hold On.’

Wednesday’s Random History Fact:
Today, in 1967, British rockers The Who make their American concert debut in New York City. A safe bet that the audience dodged flying shards of Pete Townshend’s guitar. Similar safe bet: Not for the last time, people marvel at the late Keith Moon’s drumming.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.