More than one in five homes in the US, housing about a quarter of all Americans, do not have sufficient space and plumbing to meet quarantine and isolation recommendations set by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, according to new research published Tuesday.
Both the CDC and WHO recommend that anyone who has been exposed to or infected with Covid-19 should isolate in a separate bedroom, with a separate bathroom where possible.
But Dr. Ashwini Sehgal of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at Case Western Reserve University and two experts from City University of New York found more than 20% of American homes did not have this kind of space.
“Isolation or quarantine was impossible in 25.29 million dwellings, accounting for 20.8% of all U.S. residential units, because they lacked sufficient bedrooms, bathrooms, or both,” they wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “This included almost 30% of the 88.2 million units with more than 1 occupant. Overall, about 81 million persons lived in units unsuitable for isolation or quarantine. “
They also found that Native American and Hispanic people were two to three more times likely than Whites and Black and Asian people were 1.7 times more likely than Whites to live in homes were isolation was not possible.
This is “a pattern that mirrors both the high incidence of Covid-19 in those groups and racial discrimination in access to housing that was federal policy until the 1960s and, unfortunately, persists today,” the authors wrote.
They make the suggestion that policymakers should consider offering space in underutilized hotels for isolation or quarantine, at no cost. Several Asian countries have done so, and this could decrease transmission of Covid-19, particularly in minority communities.
The researchers looked at data for 57,984 occupied houses from the American Housing Survey, which were representative of 121.57 million houses or apartments nationwide, home to around 303 million people.
There were some limitations to the research, the authors noted, such as the fact that people may have over or underreported occupants in the initial survey.