Update (3/24/20): How Apartment Guide is responding to coronavirus and taking steps to help renters and property managers during this challenging time.
There has been a flood of information online about how to keep yourself safe from being exposed to or contracting novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as it spreads across the world and the nation.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered a number of reference articles and official statements on how to best protect yourself and your family.
But for apartment dwellers, those with common spaces, mailbox clusters, lobbies, trash chutes and a plethora of door handles, keeping safe and practicing prevention habits is a bit more difficult. From your own personal hygiene to how to manage your apartment to what to expect from your landlord, here are all the tips, suggestions and instructions straight from the CDC just for renters and apartment tenants.
Wash your hands after you touch another person or a common surface. Wash your hands before and after you touch or prepare food. Wash your hands after using the restroom. Wash your hands after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose. Wash your hands when you get home from being out.
Wash by covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. When you wash, rub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Experts have recommended singing “Happy Birthday" twice. If you're tired of that, try other songs with 20-second choruses like:
If soap and water are not available, disinfect your hands by utilizing a 60 to 95 percent alcohol hand sanitizer and following the listed instructions.
This seems obvious. But since you never know who is sick, minimize contact in general, as well. Spread out on the bus or subway or in line. Touch elbows instead of shaking hands or fist-bumping, or politely decline to touch at all. Try to avoid touching common surfaces others touch in public places and in your apartment building or common areas as best you can. Don't share food or drinks.
No matter how hard you try, you're going to touch unsanitary surfaces or people. To prevent infecting yourself, do your best to refrain from touching your eyes, nose or mouth, as these are the main entry points for disease.
If you must cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue, then throw the tissue into a trash can that has a closed cover. The same goes for blowing your nose. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve like you're doing “The Dab," not into your hands.
According to the CDC, people who are not sick (or don't feel sick) should not wear protective face masks, because they're not effective in keeping out the very small virus. Face masks are only for people who are already symptomatic to prevent them from spreading the disease to others. The only exception is for healthcare workers or other close-contact care providers.
Keep your apartment neat, clean and organized to maintain a healthy environment. Clean regularly and sanitize often using items like Lysol spray and Clorox wipes on “high touch" surfaces including countertops, tabletops, doorknobs, nightstands, bathroom fixtures, toilets, refrigerator handles, kitchen faucets, light switches, TV remotes, cell phones, computer keyboards and tablets.
While unlikely, it's possible you may wind up quarantined in your apartment, or even just sick and self-quarantining. For that scenario, which shouldn't last longer than two weeks, you should stock up (but not hoard) a few basic items:
When you live in a public space like an apartment building or complex, protections from coronavirus become more communal. Precautions are no different than the CDC encourages you to take in your own home, but the difference is you don't have control of everything that happens.
If you're concerned about your management's preparation for coronavirus prevention, sit down with your landlord or property manager and find out if they're following CDC guidelines. Here are some suggestions for protections they can take based on CDC recommendations.
You don't have sinks to wash in all over your lobby or common areas, so your building should provide hand sanitizer everywhere — at the front desk, at the gym, by the mailboxes — and encourage residents, staff and visitors to use it often.
Just like in your apartment, high-traffic surfaces in common areas should be cleaned and sanitized, and it should be repeated multiple times a day. The staff should be instructed to disinfect commonly-touched surfaces in places like the front desk, lobby restroom, mailroom, game rooms, elevators, door handles and delivery areas. All deliveries should be left in the lobby for pickup and not taken to apartments.
All trash cans, both outdoor plastic garbage cans and lobby wastebaskets, ought to have working lids which should be kept closed. No one wants to, or should be forced to, pick up used tissues that have fallen on the ground.
Apartment management should implement flexible sick leave policies and make sure all workers and staff know that their jobs are safe and they won't be docked pay for staying home if they're sick. Sick employees will only spread infections to residents. Ask management to ensure all contractors are following the same policies.
All employees, residents and visitors should be encouraged to alert property management if they believe they might have contracted coronavirus, especially if they have used common areas. That way, other residents and staff can be notified and take appropriate precautions.
Even with all of the precautions, there is still a chance you'll contract the disease. Follow these steps the moment you begin to feel sick, even if it just feels like a cold.
Unless it's to see your doctor or go to the hospital, stay in your apartment and don't go out. Don't go to work, school or to public areas. Try to avoid public transportation, taxicabs or rideshares. Not only will you not infect others, the more you stay at home and rest, the faster you'll recover. Utilize food and personal item delivery if necessary.
As best you can, stay in a designated sick room and keep away from other people. Eat separately from others. If your apartment has more than one, designate a bathroom just for you. Avoid touching pets, as well. If you must feed or clean up after a pet, wash your hands before and after as detailed above.
Set aside drinking glasses, plates, silverware, sheets and blankets, towels and toiletries for your use and your use only. Clean them thoroughly with soap and water after every single use.
As mentioned above, only people who are already sick (or people caring for those that are) need to wear a face mask. If you're sick, wear one around other people (or pets) or if you go see your doctor.
See above for details.
Sanitize your apartment as explained above, but do it every day.
Keep an eye on your symptoms and seek medical attention if needed. Give them a heads up before you go to allow them to take precautions to keep others visiting their office from being infected or exposed. If you suspect you only have a cold or flu, consider a virtual doctor's visit. If you must call 9-1-1, inform them of your symptoms before they arrive, as well.