Tips for Dorm Living During COVID-19

By Alyssa Laffitte on September 8, 2020

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, life has been different for many people, including college students. Dorm living this year will not be the same as it was last year. It will be a challenge to keep safe the large number of students who live in close quarters, like dorm buildings. If you live in a dorm, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of catching COVID-19, despite living close to many people.

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Keep social distance from people you don’t live with

The best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 is to continue social distancing. In other words, stay at least six feet (two arms’ length) away from anyone who doesn’t live with you. We know it’s difficult to continue social distancing when you’re on campus and you want to see your friends, but it’s still important to follow the health guidelines, even on campus.

Stay out of common areas

Your dorm building likely has common areas that are shared by many people, like a TV room or a kitchen. Depending on what phase of reopening your area is in, these common areas might be closed off, but they also might be open. During the pandemic, it would be a good idea to avoid the common areas, even if they are open. You don’t want to be in an area where people congregate. However, if you must enter a common area (for example, if that is the only way to access a water fountain), then wait until there is no one there. Additionally, if you need to use an elevator, there should only be one person in there at a time. Staying out of common areas is a way to protect yourself from COVID-19 while living in a dorm.

Do not share personal items with anyone

You and your roommate might share many things. After all, you live together, so you don’t need to keep being socially distanced from each other. However, during this pandemic, you should share as few things as possible. For example, do not share dishes, silverware, or drinking glasses with your roommate. Additionally, don’t share clothes!  Even if you have washed your dishes and your clothes, it’s still a good idea to separate the ones you will use from the ones your roommate will use. The fewer items you share, the better. Not sharing items is a way to reduce your risk of catching COVID-19.

Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer when you don’t have access to a sink

The importance of handwashing cannot be overstated. Washing your hands with soap and water is another easy way to reduce your risk of catching COVID-19. It’s good practice to wash your hands every time you come back to your dorm room, every time you use the bathroom, every time before you eat, and every time you prepare food. This prevents not only COVID-19 but other nasty germs and sicknesses you want to avoid.

Additionally, if you are out and about with no access to a sink, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. It’s infinitely better than nothing, but if you have access to soap and water, use them instead.

Getting into the habit of washing your hands thoroughly and often will reduce your risk of catching COVID-19.

Clean your dorm room often

Viruses like COVID-19 cannot thrive in a clean environment. For this reason, it’s a good idea to clean your dorm room often. You and your roommate should create a cleaning routine to keep your room in pristine condition. You should especially pay attention to areas you touch often (also called “high touch” areas), which would include doorknobs, light switches, countertops, tabletops, desktops, sinks, faucets, and electronic devices (like your phone, tablet, or computer). Cleaning with a household disinfectant should be sufficient to kill the virus that causes COVID-19. Cleaning and disinfecting your dorm room is a great way to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Be careful when you go to the bathroom

Bathroom situations vary from building to building, but if your building has a communal bathroom situation (in other words, many people sharing the same bathroom), you will have to be careful whenever you use the bathroom. You need to remember that many people touch those handles, bathroom stall locks, toilet flushing levers, shower faucets, and sink handles every day.

A good rule of thumb is to always wash your hands before leaving the bathroom. Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and another to open the bathroom door on your way out so you don’t touch any of the handles. Additionally, if you need to brush your teeth in a shared sink, do not put your toothbrush directly on any surface in the bathroom. Instead, cover your toothbrush with a paper towel to prevent it from having direct contact with any surface in the bathroom. If your dorm bathroom is shared by many people, you need to be careful to not touch the surfaces that many other people touch on a daily basis to protect yourself from getting sick.

Obey the rules

Your university likely has many rules regarding social distancing and dorm living. Familiarize yourself with these rules and obey them. For example, do not host or attend any parties! If you are required to wear a mask around campus, please do so. These rules are in place for a reason. In following these rules, you will be protecting yourself and others from getting sick.

If you live in a dorm, packed closely with many people, there are still measures you can take to reduce your chances of getting sick.

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