Ask the Doctor January-February 2022
A S W E A G E
Were American Homes Ready for the Pandemic? Not Enough Rooms in Many U.S. Homes for Effective COVID-19 Quarantine By: ALEX RHODES AND KATIE GUSTAFSON The COVID-19 pandemic has made many individuals reevaluate how to keep themselves and others safe. It has also changed the way they manage space in their homes during a nationwide shift toward working and learning from home. But how many U.S. households are limited in ways they can effectively respond to the pandemic because they don’t have enough rooms or amenities in their home? About 38% of all U.S. households in multi-person homes (34 million households) did not have at least two full bathrooms and enough bedrooms to keep one person completely isolated, according to the 2019 American Housing Survey (AHS). The Census Bureau conducts the AHS, which is sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. When more than one person lives in a home, a limited number of bedrooms or bathrooms can make self-isolation challenging. When exposed to the COVID-19 virus, quarantining is critical to prevent further spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a recent Annals of Internal Medicine article explores, however, many Americans do not live in housing that can accommodate quar- antine as the CDC recommends. When more than one person lives in a home, a limited number of bedrooms or bathrooms can make self-isolation challenging. A lack of amenities, like a washer and dryer or a full kitchen, may also inhibit self-isolation. Housing characteristics don’t just impact a household’s ability to quarantine during a pandemic. They also affect how Americans work and learn at home. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to school, business and office closures across the country, forcing many students to learn virtually and workers to do their jobs remotely — mostly from home. Is available workspace an issue for these households? Bedrooms and Bathrooms As the CDC recommends, those infected with COVID-19 should stay in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroomwhen possible to limit close contact with other household members and avoid spreading the virus through air and surfaces. But that’s easier said than done in many multi-person households that don’t have the room to create a separate space for self-isolation. Around 36% of the 32 million multi-person homes in the United States did not have at least two full bathrooms in 2019. Continued on page 20...
ASK THE DOCTOR
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