While the coronavirus pandemic persists with no vaccine in sight, it’s important to know the best course of action in case you or a loved one gets sick with COVID-19. Hopefully, you’re able to stay home and minimize your contact with the outside world, reducing your chances of getting the virus. But if your partner has coronavirus and you live together, you’ll need to double down on precautions to monitor their illness and keep yourself safe.
One of the toughest things about caring for a loved one with COVID-19 is that you’re obligated to stay away from them for the safety of yourself and others. “Unfortunately, the best thing to do if a family member becomes sick while at home is to quarantine that person,” Dr. Darshan Shah, a surgeon and the founder/CEO of Next Health, tells Elite Daily. This also applies to your partner. If they believe they may have COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends calling their doctor to explain their symptoms and get medical advice, rather than going to the hospital in person. This limits the chance they could spread the virus to other people.
The CDC notes that most cases are mild and can be managed safely at home. If your partner becomes ill, take immediate action to isolate them as much as you can. “The partner who is sick should remain quarantined, stay in a separate room, and wear a mask if they are not,” Dr. Shah says. “Everything they touch should be disinfected, and they should use a separate bathroom that is specifically for them.” If you have to share a bathroom, make sure it is thoroughly disinfected after every single use.
If you are your partner’s primary caregiver, you’ll need to be responsible for monitoring their condition. Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D., a Higgins professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, explains how to do this. “Make sure they have plenty of fluids and rest,” Racaniello tells Elite Daily. “Monitor their temperature daily. If it becomes high, call a doctor. If they have trouble breathing — a sign that COVID-19 is getting worse — call a doctor.” If you have a mask and gloves for yourself, use them, and only enter your partner’s isolation space when you’re wearing protective gear. “You can provide support by making sure they have food, medicine, and water, but provide it without direct contact,” Shah advises. Wash your clothes immediately after you exit the isolation space.
The CDC recommends monitoring the sick person for emergency warning signs, including trouble breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, confusion, inability to awaken, and bluish lips or face. These symptoms require immediate medical attention. Keep their doctor’s contact information on hand so you can call with any questions or concerns. In an emergency situation where your partner needs in-person care ASAP, call 911 and notify the dispatcher that your partner has or is suspected to have coronavirus.
If your partner has tested positive for COVID-19, and they've been living with you, you have been exposed to the virus. Even if they haven't been tested but are showing all the symptoms, proceed as if you've been exposed and be extra careful to socially isolate yourself from others. “You should assume that you probably have the virus as well,” Shah says. “You should avoid all social contact and watch yourself closely for symptoms.” These include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue, among others. If you absolutely must go outside (to get groceries, more protective gear, or medication), Racaniello says to wear a face mask and bring plenty of hand sanitizer so you won’t contaminate any public surfaces.
It’s hard to feel like you’re distancing yourself from your partner when they need support right now more than ever. But there are ways to show love without being physically close to someone, and these strategies can get you through this time together. “Support does not have to come through physical touch,” clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow tells Elite Daily. “We have a world of amazing technology that allows us to stay as connected as imaginable.” You can still schedule regular video dates and phone calls, even when you’re staying only a room or two apart from each other.
“Let your partner know that while this may be tough for them, you are always a text or video chat away, and you care about them,” Klapow says. “Also help them, depending on how they are feeling, structure their time so that the isolation creates less stress.” Being cooped up in quarantine can get pretty boring, and if your partner is feeling OK, they’d probably love some fun distractions. Consider planning creative dates over FaceTime, hosting a Netflix Party from the other room, or reading them a book over the phone.
Surprising your SO with messages and videos of encouragement can also lift their spirits when they’re struggling. “Really take the time to tell them what you think about them, why you care about them, and what things will be like when they get better,” Klapow says. “It is important to remind yourself and your partner that this is not forever and that the strength of your relationship is not determined by physical intimacy.”
Even when you can’t be snuggled up watching movies or sharing a meal at your table, you can show love to your partner through your actions and your affirmations. “It’s a time to get creative with your words and your video chats,” Klapow says. Though it may be difficult and scary right now, try to remember that this time has the potential to make your relationship stronger in the long run.
Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D., Higgins professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University
Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist