Many U.S. Homes Too Cramped to Stop COVID’s Spread

FRIDAY, July 24, 2020 (HealthDay News) – People with COVID-19 are urged to keep away from family members to protect them from infection. But a new study finds that a fifth of America’s homes are too small for this to happen.

Researchers found that more than 20% of households across the country did not have enough bedrooms and bathrooms to allow someone with COVID-19 to self-isolate. This covers about a quarter of the population.

And as with the pandemic in general, low-income and minority Americans are the hardest hit. Nearly 40% of Hispanic adults live in a home with too few bedrooms or bathrooms.

Experts said housing conditions are likely one of the reasons black and Hispanic Americans have been particularly affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It doesn’t affect everyone the same way,” said Dr. Talia Swartz, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

It is difficult for a family to prevent the coronavirus from spreading around the home, said Swartz, who is also a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“It’s all the more difficult if you live in crowded conditions,” she added.

Advice from health experts to isolate sick family members makes sense, Swartz noted. But it can be frustrating for people who don’t have the space to do it.

“The advice is for people who can do these things,” she said. “I think we need to be more thoughtful in our recommendations.”

Dr Ashwini Sehgal, professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, led the study.

“The issue of home quarantine has not received the same attention as mask wearing and social distancing,” he said. “And I think we need to do more.”

One option, Sehgal said, could be to offer hotel rooms to people who need to quarantine – under medical supervision and with free meal delivery. The tactic has been used in several Asian countries, he noted.

New York, which was the epicenter of the US pandemic in the spring, has launched a hotel program, as have some other major cities. But Sehgal said he was not aware of any coordinated efforts to make this option widely available.

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