Is It Safe to Have Workers Enter Your Home?

A couple of months ago, if your sink started leaking, you probably went to YouTube for a tutorial on how to fix it yourself. And when your kids were acting up, you might have dreamed about calling your babysitter, but you didn’t.

After all, public health experts encouraged strict physical distancing and limiting interactions with anyone outside your immediate family. Now, as states begin to reopen, you may wonder if it’s OK to have repairs done in your home or to finally get a sitter to help take care of your children.

While it may be tempting to fling open your doors for some much-needed help, it can be risky. The pandemic is still happening, and we don’t yet have a vaccine or an effective treatment, so the risk of contracting the virus remains very real.

So what do you do to keep everyone safe if you want to bring outside help into your home?

The experts say: Make sure you and anyone who enters your home wear masks, and stay at least 6 feet apart from him or her. If you need repair work done, open the windows and step outside so you are not in close proximity to the person working. Before and after the work, disinfect the area and any doorknobs or surfaces nearby.

“Wear a mask and don’t hang over their shoulder,” says Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, director of UNC Medical Center Infection Prevention.

If you need to hire a babysitter, “keep it to one or two consistent people as opposed to a rotating group of people,” Dr. Sickbert-Bennett says. “That would be a way to control the number of people you’d interact with.”

Be aware that your babysitter could be exposed to coronavirus outside your home and bring it into your home.

Factors to consider:

– Is the repair necessary? Now is not the time for major home renovations, but you’ll need to get a broken air conditioner fixed. Determine if the repair is essential or can wait.

– Is the business practicing preventive measures? When booking a repair or service, ask what the business is requiring to keep customers and staff safe. Hire businesses that require masks and practice physical distancing.

– Are you confident that your babysitter has been following the “rules”? You can’t dictate what your babysitter does outside your home, but you can ask questions. Ask whether he or she practices physical distancing and wears a mask when that isn’t possible.

– Is anyone in your household at high risk for coronavirus complications? This group includes people older than 65 and anyone with a serious underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. While it’s ideal to avoid having outside people in your home if anyone in your household is considered high-risk, if that is not an option, be sure to have the high-risk individual completely separated from the workers for another level of safety.

How to stay safe:

If you’re having workers in your home, wear a mask inside and step outside if possible. Make sure anyone who comes into your home wears a mask and practices physical distancing. Disinfect surfaces that anyone from outside your home may have touched.

Encourage your babysitter to spend time with your child outside as much as possible, and to remind your child frequently about the importance of physical distancing and hand hygiene.

Be prepared to have frank, respectful conversations about physical distancing and preventing virus transmission with anyone you hire.

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the CDC website and the UNC Health COVID-19 Resources page, and follow UNC Health on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.