Most apartment buildings include several shared common areas, often making it difficult for residents to maintain a six-foot distance upon leaving their apartments. From elevators and mail areas to hallways and stairwells, how can residents protect themselves from the coronavirus outbreak while living in an apartment building?

There are considerable precautions household members can take to prevent contracting the virus while living in the same home as someone who is potentially symptomatic and or while navigating the common areas of their apartment building.

What to do if someone begins showing symptoms in your apartment

For starters, it is critically important that all members of the household remain in quarantine for 14 days if someone in the home is infected with the coronavirus according to Dr. Deborah Birx, who serves as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House. Although it is challenging, all household members should not leave home to go grocery shopping or partake in any other activities outside of the apartment if someone becomes infected or begins exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.


If you happen to live in an apartment with two bathrooms and a household member begins exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, quarantine them to one room and bathroom and do not allow any other members of the household to enter those areas.

If there is only one bathroom, the individual showing symptoms must be diligent in disinfecting the bathroom every time it is used. Other household members should also sanitize the room before using it. The infected individual should also wear a cloth mask to ensure they don’t spread the virus to other household members when leaving their room.


If possible, other household members should prepare meals for the symptomatic individual and leave food in their bedroom doorway. After the symptomatic individual finishes eating, they should place the items back outside of the door and the household members should use gloves to collect the dishes.

If the other household members are unable to prepare food for the individual showing symptoms, considerable precautions should be taken while the person who is sick uses the kitchen. The individual should wear a mask, wash hands thoroughly prior to preparing food, and carefully sanitize all areas of the kitchen that were used.

Other household areas

The symptomatic individual should avoid entering all other areas of the home and should remain in their room for length of time that they exhibit symptoms. When they leave their room to use the kitchen or bathroom, they should maintain a six-foot distance from all other household members and wear a mask and gloves.

How to Navigate Your Apartment Building During COVID-19

Most luxury buildings have various amenities including gyms, laundry rooms, elevators, workspaces, and more. During this period of social distancing, it is best to refrain from using communal areas as much as possible. If you use the gym regularly, consider going for a run outside or doing a workout in your apartment unit via streaming workout classes so that you don’t have to touch the building’s gym equipment. If you do choose to work out in your building’s gym, be sure to thoroughly sanitize the equipment before and after using it.

If your apartment is on a lower floor, consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator. If not, try to avoid getting into overcrowded elevators. Try to do laundry at off-peak hours, such as first thing in the morning or late at night. It is also best to visit the mailroom and other communal areas such as workspaces, rooftops, etc. during off-peak hours.

Why are these steps necessary?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is possible for those who have the virus to transmit the disease through respiratory droplets when they cough or sneeze. Coronavirus is contracted by touching a surface with droplets or an individual who has the virus and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth. When cleaning surfaces, only use disinfectants that have been proven to kill the virus (as determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), including Windex, Clorox, Lysol, Comet, and more.

Try to rely on grocery delivery services, if possible

Although grocery store delivery is somewhat limited during this time, there are several grocery store delivery services available that should be utilized if someone in your household has coronavirus, including Instacart, Amazon Pantry, Postmates, GrubHub, and Shipt. While these companies are extremely overwhelmed considering the current circumstances, some of these delivery options open new delivery windows every day at midnight.

If you are over the age of 65, do not leave your apartment

If you are over the age of 65 or have pre-existing conditions that make you more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, ask a young friend or relative to pick up your mail and take care of grocery shopping when essentials run out. If you do not have someone to rely on to help with grocery shopping, contact your property manager or other residents in your building to see if anyone is available to help you out. If you have internet access, it is strongly advised to try ordering food through one of the grocery delivery options listed above.

When is it safe for a symptomatic household member to end their quarantine?

According to the CDC, individuals who have COVID-19 or are showing symptoms can end their period of home isolation after going three or more days without a fever or any other symptoms such as cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, stomach sensitivity, etc.

If three or more days have passed without symptoms and seven or more days have passed since the initial symptoms appeared, the individual is most likely safe to interact with other household members. They should still be cautious and try their best to remain a safe distance, but it is probably safe for them to spend time with household members in the living room.

What to do while in quarantine?

Staying inside can be tough, especially for weeks on end. Those who contract COVID-19 will typically spend most of their time sleeping to fight off the illness, but there are several relaxing activities they can partake in from their room to keep their mind occupied when they feel well enough.

When they’ve maxed out on watching Netflix, some ideas for entertainment include learning a handicraft, such as how to cross-stitch, knitting, crocheting, macramé, painting, beadwork, or coloring. Practicing an instrument, learning a new language, reading, journaling, and meditating are also soothing, social-distancing friendly activities.

For those who are well enough to be around other household members, repainting furniture, board games, puzzles, and video calls with friends and family are excellent ways to stay connected with loved ones and pass the time.

Key takeaways

While it may feel like we’ve been in quarantine forever, we must continue to remind ourselves that “this too shall pass,” as Abraham Lincoln famously stated. It is going to take time, tremendous patience, and considerable self-control, but the longer we remain indoors protecting ourselves and our families, the sooner we can go back to normal.

Take care of yourselves and your families and don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Draper and Kramer if we can be of help to you during this difficult time.

A man and woman share a meal and bottle of wine at a dining table.

There are considerable precautions household members can take to prevent contracting the virus while living in the same home as someone who is potentially symptomatic and or while navigating the common areas of their apartment building.

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