Since guidance from the U.S. government is sparse and mostly wrong, here’s how to self-isolate if you may have coronavirus

It’s incredibly sad but already very obvious that the U.S. medical system has an inadequate number of test kits for its residents. Moreover, because of our horribly expensive healthcare system, even if you can get a free kit, associated costs not covered by insurance may be unaffordable. Finally, saddest of all, the information being provided is not up to date and is also usually wrong.

SO, if you believe you’ve been exposed or you’re returning from travels to places already seeing coronavirus, your best bet is to look to guidance available from New Zealand. Your goal is to protect others as you get to where you will isolate yourself for a minimum of 14 days. The Kiwis (bless them) has put out this very clear set of directions as to how you should proceed. Altho the directions refer to those returning from China and/or Iran, the same instructions apply if you’re returning from Italy or any other dangerous location. This virus is spreading rapidly and you will need to check whether what you thought was a fine safe place has changed.

Then read this. Please note that this is the one situation where a surgical mask IS a good idea. It does protect others if properly fitted even tho there’s no point to wearing one to protect yourself.

Home isolation guidance for close contacts and recently returned travellers from mainland China and/or Iran

You need to isolate yourself in your home or hotel if you have been:

  • in contact with a person sick with COVID-19 infection
  • in or transited through mainland China (not including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) in the past 14 days
  • in or transited through Iran on or after 1 March 2020

Last updated: 02 March 2020

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How long do I need to be in home isolation?

You need to be isolated for 14 days from the day you left China or Iran.

If you have been in contact with a person with a COVID-19 infection while they were ill you need to be isolated for 14 days after you last saw that person.

Getting to your home or hotel

If you are currently well, or if you have minor symptoms and have been tested for COVID-19 after arriving in Australia and your test result is negative, you can travel directly to your home or hotel by public transport, taxi or ride-share, or continue with onward flights.

Remember that you must wear a surgical mask at all times while travelling to your home or hotel.

Once you get to your home or hotel you must restrict activities outside your home/hotel, except for seeking medical care. You should not go to work, school/university/childcare, the gym, or public areas, and you should not use public transport, taxis, or ride-sharing services.

If you need to seek medical care call ahead, and make sure you wear a surgical mask when attending.

Monitor symptoms

When in home isolation, you should monitor yourself for symptoms. Watch for:

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • other early symptoms to watch for are chills, body aches, sore throat, headache and runny nose, muscle pain, or diarrhoea

If you or someone else in home isolation develops severe symptoms and it is a medical emergency (e.g. shortness of breath at rest or difficulty breathing) you should phone 000. Tell the ambulance staff that you are in home isolation for COVID-19.

If the symptoms are less serious you should phone your GP or the local emergency department to arrange for a medical assessment. When you have an appointment you should travel directly to the medical centre or emergency department and wear a surgical mask.

If you develop symptoms, you should also make sure you wear a surgical mask while in the presence of other household members, even if they are also in home isolation.

Separate yourself from the other people in your home

If you are sharing your home with other people who are not in home isolation, you should try to keep your distance from these people as much as possible. Remember to:

  • wear a surgical mask when you are in the same room as another person
  • use a separate bathroom, if available
  • avoid shared or communal areas and wear a surgical mask when moving through these areas
  • discourage other people from visiting your home while you are in isolation.

Wash your hands

You should wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially:

  • before entering an area used by other people
  • after using the bathroom
  • after coughing or sneezing
  • before putting on and after removing face masks.

Alternatively, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if your hands are not visibly dirty.

Wear your mask properly

Make sure it covers your nose and mouth at all times and avoid touching your mask unnecessarily.

It’s OK to go into the garden

You can go into your private garden or courtyard. Wear a surgical mask if there is anyone there who is not also in home isolation.

If you live in an apartment you can go onto your private balcony if you have one. You can go into common garden areas while wearing a surgical mask. Please go quickly through any common areas on the way there.

Tips for you and your family to help cope with home isolation

Being in home isolation can be frightening, particularly for young children. We’ve put together some tips for coping.

  • Talk to the other members of the family about COVID-19 to reduce anxiety. You can find accurate, up to date information on the NSW Health Website – Novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Reassure young children using age-appropriate language.
  • Keep up a normal daily routine as much as possible:
    • Arrange with your employer to work from home, if possible
    • Ask your child’s school to supply lesson information and homework by email
  • Think about how you have coped with difficult situations in the past and reassure yourself that you will cope with this situation too. Remember that isolation won’t last for long.
  • Keep in touch with family members and friends via telephone, email or social media.
  • Exercise regularly at home. Options could include exercise DVDs, dancing, floor exercises, yoga, walking around the backyard or using home exercise equipment, such as a stationary bicycle, if you have it. Exercise is a proven treatment for stress and depression.
  • Ask your family, friends or other members of the household to pick up your groceries and medicines for you. If this is not possible, you may be able to order groceries and medicines (including prescription medicines) online or by telephone.

More information and support

For more information and support while in home isolation:

Page Updated: Monday 2 March 2020 Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW

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