A new study published by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) found that keeping sick family members separated in the home during the pandemic is a logistical impossibility for over 80 million Americans.
Their work revealed that over 25 million homes are too small and lack an adequate number of bathrooms and bedrooms to properly keep those infected with COVID-19 away from those who are healthy.
“Poverty and overt discrimination force many people of color into crowded and unsafe housing, fueling the spread of the pandemic,” said researcher Dr. Steffie Woolhandler. “We need to implement emergency measures to minimize household spread. But we also need to assure that all Americans can afford decent housing, and to finally begin enforcing the 1968 Fair Housing Act that too many landlords and realtors continue to flout.”
Containing the spread of infection
To understand how the virus can spread so rapidly among family members, the researchers first analyzed data from the American Housing Survey. This allowed them to take account how many people are living in any given home while also determining the layout of such homes.
In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are urging sick consumers to keep themselves restricted to certain parts of the house. For those with ample room and extra bathrooms, this isn’t a difficult option. The researchers note that it can work in keeping the virus contained without further infecting other family members.
However, in this study, the researchers learned that additional bedrooms and bathrooms are hard to come by in tens of millions of homes across the U.S. They discovered that over 80 million Americans are living in homes that don’t have the space for such quarantine measures.
These figures are concerning because they reveal just how difficult it is for millions of Americans to contain the virus in their own homes. However, the researchers say that low-income families and minorities are most affected by these findings. The team learned that a difference of more than 25 percent exists between white consumers who are low on space compared with Latino consumers in the same position.
To help relieve families of this burden, and to limit the number of people affected nationwide, the researchers are calling for stronger interventions by policymakers to protect consumers and their families from COVID-19.
“To help contain family spread we should immediately offer free masks, gloves, and disinfection supplies to all families of potentially contagious persons,” said researcher Dr. Ashwini Segal. “But we need to go further than that. To protect their loved ones, many doctors and nurses caring for COVID-19 patients have been put up in hotels rooms that lie vacant because of the pandemic. We need to offer that option to potentially infectious patients. Similar strategies have helped contain the pandemic in several Asian countries.”