By Amy Dee Stephens
“You’ve got three negative Covid tests and two positives.”
It was an unexpected outcome at the medical clinic. Yes, there had been an exposure, but we all felt fine. After seven quarantines over the last 18-months, it never occurred to me on that Wednesday to be ready to shift gears.
Within five minutes of diagnosis—life changed.
Who needed to be notified about exposure?
How would I navigate work responsibilities for the next 10 or more days?
Most importantly, how would our blended family separate the “sickies” from the “wellies” in our house?
The first practical decision was to move those with Covid to one side of the house and those without on the other side. I moved into the living room in the middle and operated between both sides. It was stressful for everyone, but looking back, I think we did a lot of things right in preventing the spread of germs and keeping the boys, ages 8-11, busy for 10 days.
So, Here Are My Five Top Tips
#1 Clear Shower Curtains Over the Doorways
I used tacks to attach clear shower curtains around the top frame of each bedroom door. This brilliant idea came from my daughter-in-law in the medical field. I put the tack holes close to the door frame, so no one will ever see them except my 7-foot-tall friends. This barrier slowed the air-flow of germs, but I could still see the kids in their rooms! Luckily the boys are all in upper elementary, so they didn’t require non-stop supervision. On the sick side, I also added a shower curtain across the hallway, where they walked to go to the bathroom.
Note that the shower curtains don’t go all the way to the floor. On the sickie side, I cut off some extra plastic from the sides and used packing tape to lengthen the bottom to the floor. On the well side, however, I didn’t do this; so the boys could run a Hot Wheels tracks between the rooms and the dogs could roam freely—both decisions that we decided to live with.
Warning: You will hate this next part if you are a home decorator or one of those moms with a showcase home. After our isolation was over, I rolled the shower curtains up above the door in anticipation of the next quarantine or isolation. I made ribbon loops with Velcro on each end from sewing box scraps, rolled the curtain up, and tacked the loops above the door.
Go NOW and buy clear shower curtains, so you have them ready when you need them. The dollar-store variety shower curtains are made of thinner plastic than other stores, but both versions worked fine.
#2 Food Tubs
Everyone in the house got a plastic tub outside their door so I could pass food and items without having to go into the room. I filled the tub, slid it under the shower curtain, and after I moved away, they would pull it toward themselves. When I was ready to reclaim dirty dishes, I wore gloves and sanitized.
Normally, I staunchly object to disposable dishes cluttering the landfill—but I made an exception for the duration of our isolation. Oh, and if you have indoor dogs, pick tubs with lids! A few times, the dogs beat the kids to the food.
#3 Remove Window Screens
Imagine having kids who feel perfectly fine being stuck in their rooms for 10 days! They had to get out sometimes. To keep them from walking through common areas of the house, I removed the window screens during the day and allowed them designated times to crawl outside and get some fresh air.
Since this event happened in the fall when the weather happened to be lovely, it was nice to have the windows open and create airflow in the house. The one complication was flies. Once the kids crawled out, it was hard to close the windows from the outside. We ended up propping the screens back over the opening the best we could while they played outside.
#4 Outdoor Movies and Storytimes
Being an anti-screen parent on a good day, I was determined that the boys would not spend the week staring at their iPads. Nor could they see the TV from their shower curtained doorways. So, each night, I set up my computer screen on a small table outside. The kids crawled out the windows and sat in well-separated lawn chairs to watch an hour-long video.
Our two favorites: First, Pink Panther cartoons have brilliant physical comedy, no dialogue needed. I can’t tell you how many times they laughed out loud. Second, I showed them 1970s episodes of the Hardy Boys. They became hooked. The fact that the characters are brothers who get along, act politely, and use their brains to solve problems was a real plus—and not something often seen in today’s male leading roles.
Storytime was a little tricky, because shouting through a shower curtain from the other end of the hall wasn’t working. So, for the sick side of the house, I began a flashlight story time through the window. I think the neighbors found this process curious, but it worked great. I stood outside, six feet away, and read aloud. Chapter books required listening only, so the boys could lay in bed and listen as usual.
#5 Walkie Talkies
A few days into isolation, a friend sent us walkie-talkies via mail. Brilliant, because this gave everyone a chance to communicate from separate rooms instead of yelling across the house. No surprise, there was a certain amount of fighting and interrupting over the air waves, so I had to establish some ground rules and designated talking times. I suggest supplying a good joke book for the kids to read from. We got WisHouse brand walkie talkies, and they actually worked, unlike many cheap ones we’ve had over the years.
In Conclusion, Get Ready NOW:
Obviously, we creatively went beyond the CDC recommendations for household isolation. I will not say that having Covid in our household was fun (it was stressful on me), but the above modifications made a big difference in keeping the kids entertained between homework sessions. At no other time would nightly outdoor movies, walkie talkies and window escapes have become an acceptable routine. Now that a little time has passed, we are starting to forget the stressful moments and remember those fun new traditions we started. And sometimes, we still watch the Hardy Boys in the back yard for old time’s sake.
So if you are not in isolation right now, be proactive. Buy those clear shower curtains, pre-order walkie-talkies, and have a plan before that next Covid test surprises you. And hopefully, you will come out on the other end with a few positive memories, like we did.
(Note: And hopefully, you will find out that in the end, you had false-positive results, like we did–which caused me to roll my eyes and feel relieved at the same time)