Mark Roemer image of someone in quarantine

What to Do If Your Roommate Needs to Quarantine

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists in taking a toll on our everyday life, continuing to stay at home has increased beyond just sensible medical order. In more than a few states, it has turned out to be the law of the land. With compulsory stay-at-home instructions legislated across the country, several people living with roommates or partners may be thankful they are not alone during this unparalleled ordeal. Still, others may be concerned about what happens if their roommate gets sick. Here is what I, Mark Roemer, think you should do if your roommate is required to quarantine after showing COVID-19 symptoms or even testing positive for the virus.

Keep Up Your Usual Preventative Actions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a list of instructions on how to keep yourself safe during the crisis. Some of these include wearing a mask, staying a certain distance from people, and washing your hands. If you are not currently practicing these in your everyday life, you certainly should be.

Whenever you or your roommates come home, you should make sure that you remove your clothes, take a shower, and wipe down any areas you have touched before cleaned up. It is important to remember that the virus can stay on different surfaces different amounts of time. For example, it could remain on glass for two days, but it could only stay on cardboard a day. These are not the actual numbers, just an example.

Likewise, you should avoid coughing or sneezing openly in the room. This is the fastest way to spread the virus. Whenever you need to cough or sneeze, make sure you do it into your arm. This will prevent, not eliminate, the spread of the germs. Then, make sure you wash the area you coughed or sneezed in. As I said, it could stay on that surface for an extended period of time.

Separate the Sick Roommate as Much as Possible

You are bound to have some common areas when you live in the same place as other people. That does not mean that you need to occupy them at the same time. If, for whatever reason, you need to be in the same area at the same time, do it safely. Keep your distance and make sure you are both wearing a mask. While this may not prevent the spread of the virus one hundred percent, it will severely limit the possibility of spreading.

I suggest having an infected person stay in their room as much as possible. If you don’t go in their room, and they don’t come out, you decrease the chances of spreading the virus. I have heard of some people helping each other out. The roommate that is not sick will make meals for the person that is sick. You can then leave the food on the floor, knock on the door, and walk away. When the non-infected person is at a safe distance, the sick roommate can open the door and collect their meal. This can be applied to any number of things. Naturally, they will need to leave their room to use the restroom. Just make sure you both clean the area before using it. If once is good, then twice is better, right?

Don’t Share Personal Items

On the subject of the bathroom, make sure you are not sharing anything with the other person. Like I have said several times, the virus stays on surfaces at different amounts of time. Not only should you have your toothbrush and mouthwash, but you should also use separate eating utensils and flatware. At no time do you want to use the same things they are using until they are better.

It may seem strange, but washing the dishes is usually something people do without thinking. The only way to kill the virus is to have a dishwasher or have the items to be cleaned in contact with soap for more than a minute. Most people just slather some detergent on the dishes and then rinse them off. That is not enough to break down the virus. So, unless you want to spend hours cleaning the dishes, you should be advised to use separate dishes for a few days. The infection runs its course in about five days. After that, a person can be tested. If they come back clean, then you can resume your usual way of doing things.

Wash Your Hands and Disinfect Surfaces More Often

In general, people will clean the house once a week. While this was all well and fine in the days before COVID-19, it merely isn’t the case anymore. You are going to have to clean and disinfect much more often. I would suggest not going more than a day or two between cleanings.

As a rule, my wife and I alternate days. Since she cannot work from home, she is in contact with the outside world. I don’t need to go out in my line of work. Therefore, we do need to clean a little less frequently than more than one person leaving the house in a day. The more people that have to leave the house and come in contact with others, the more frequently you should clean the house. If you are in a dorm, I would suggest you clean up every few hours. There are a lot of things that can come in under the doors. Additionally, you have a lot more people coming in and out than an ordinary house.


I, Mark Roemer, know these steps may seem extreme, but I assure you they are not. You never want to take chances with your health. The key points to take away from this blog are that you need to continue to clean yourself and your house. If you need to segregate an infected roommate, make sure you take care of them. Think about how you would feel if you were the one that was in isolation. You can even call them on your phone or have a video chat to keep in contact with them.