Quarantine vs. Reverse Quarantine
In a situation involving an outbreak of a communicable disease such as COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Ebola, Enterovirus D68, or even some strains of the flu, quarantine may become necessary in order to restrict the spread of that disease or to protect the health of your family.
Quarantines can happen for two primary reasons. First, in the case that you or a member of your household has been exposed to a communicable disease, quarantine may be mandated by health workers or government officials in order to keep the disease from spreading. You may also wish to self-quarantine if you feel you have symptoms of a disease you don’t want to spread to others. The duration of the quarantine period depends on the disease and the number of family members that contract it, but will generally be less than 30 days. You will need to remain in quarantine until the disease has run its course, you have determined you were not infected, or you are no longer contagious.
Second, if none of your family members are exposed or ill, you may elect to reverse-quarantine in order to isolate yourself from a disease that is in your area. Self Imposed Reverse Quarantine is the voluntary act of isolating yourself and your family in your own home for an extended period of time and could be the best method of avoiding catching the disease. It could be especially vital for families of those with weakened immune systems as there would be extremely limited or no contact with outside people from whom the disease could be contracted. This reverse quarantine can last much longer than a traditional quarantine, until the disease is no longer a threat in your area or you are able to relocate to another unaffected area.
How to Implement Self Imposed Reverse Quarantine
The home is the safe zone. In order to keep it free from infection, everyone must understand and follow the quarantine protocols.
1. All members of the household stay in the home or on their property for the duration of the quarantine. Children should not go to school or play with friends. No shopping or attending public events.
2. No outside members of society are allowed on the property. A quarantine sign or quarantine tape around the property can go a long way toward deterring visitors. A family who recently self-quarantined were asked by the health department to remove their quarantine signs and place “No Trespassing” signs instead. Any way you can let people know to stay off the property will help.
3. If a member of the household must leave the home, strict guidelines must be followed to keep them from contracting the disease while away from the home, including wearing of N95 masks, gloves, and any other protective gear and then properly sanitizing prior to reentering the safe zone of the home. The reverse quarantine only works as long as nobody brings the disease into the safe zone.
Taking Care of Business
An effective reverse quarantine restricts every member of the household to their home and immediate property, and restricts who else is allowed to enter that home or property during the quarantine period. As a society, we are used to going places and interacting with others regularly and a reverse quarantine would limit if and how those activities could happen. You may have the luxury of preparing for your reverse quarantine by running out for that last shopping trip, but you may not. What do you need to do to be able to effectively shelter in place and ride out a pandemic or local outbreak?
Having a supply of shelf stable food or food in your freezer will be invaluable. Food storage could literally be a life saver. If you haven’t stocked up on food prior to deciding to reverse quarantine, look into home food delivery options like Amazon Grocery or Thrive Life.
Hygiene products and other supplies
Your family likely uses consumable products other than food on a regular basis. Stock up on personal hygiene supplies like soap, shampoo, and toothpaste. Because you are quarantining to avoid a disease, you will also want to have plenty of the following:
- Hand Sanitizer
- Disinfecting wipes
- Multiple pairs of nitrile gloves
- N95 particulate masks
- Heavy duty trash bags
- Medical supplies and medications
These items can also be ordered online for delivery to your location as long as the epidemic is not so wide spread that it affects commerce and shipping.
Children will not be attending school away from home during your self imposed reverse quarantine. If you will be in quarantine for a lengthy period of time, look into enrolling your children in an online school in your area or continue schooling at home yourself (here are some great tips if you are unexpectedly needing to home school your children). You may also be able to find or hire someone who can teach your children via online video chats such as Google Hangouts or Skype. If the quarantine is in effect for many people in your area, your school may set up online class options as well. Check with your local school district if the quarantine is widespread.
This one might be the toughest to solve and may end up requiring one of the members of the household to leave the home on occasion. Work from home as much as possible. Use sick time and vacation time if it is available to you. Depending on your vocation, you may be able to work via video conference, complete projects at home for delivery, or schedule work times when others are not in the office or the co-workers are limited. Look into viable work-from-home opportunities now to supplement your income and possibly become your primary income if you need to reverse quarantine. A financial reserve can also be drawn upon during an extended time away from work to supplement reduced income.
When I asked my teen son what would be the most difficult part of a reverse quarantine, he quickly responded, “keeping my sanity!” You will be in your home with the same people 24 hours a day for the duration of the quarantine. While you will probably still have electricity (and thus have access to electronic entertainment) you will also want to plan some powerless activities together as well as allow for “alone time” for each family member. Take this time to learn new skills or take up a hobby. Exercise. You can still communicate with others outside your home using available technology including phone calls, video chats, texts, and social media. If too much media is feeding your fear, turn it off and do something else. Keeping active will also help keep your mind off the trouble going on outside your quarantine zone.
The Mann family, who recently quarantined themselves, used lidded tote system for deliveries. The lids were labeled so the delivery person only touched one side and the family only touched the other side. Mail, packages, and any other deliveries were left in the tote and retrieved by one of the family members who always wore gloves to do it.
A couple more considerations
When I was younger, my family was actually quarantined by the health department when my youngest sister contracted whooping cough. I remember our schoolwork delivered by friends into our milk box on the front step. Having a drop box for items coming and going from your house can help limit contact with individuals while still allowing you to send and receive needed information or supplies that cannot be sent electronically.
Be prepared to set up a sick room in your home to isolate anyone that may become ill to prevent the spread of the disease as much as possible to others in your home. Some good advice here on how to set one up.
Reverse quarantine would not be easy, but there may come a time that it is necessary and it is best to prepare now as best we can to protect our families.
Keep preparing! Angela
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