As States Begin Lifting Stay-At-Home Orders, How Can The Immunocompromised Stay Safe?

Apr 23, 2020
Originally published on April 23, 2020 1:34 pm

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Hoan Nguyen lives in Salt Lake City and he's concerned his wife may be immunocompromised, making her more vulnerable to COVID-19. So Nguyen and his family have taken self-isolation very seriously.

But as some states, such as Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Utah, begin to relax stay-at-home directives, orders, and recommendations, Nguyen is worried this could increase his wife's chances of contracting the virus – especially if he's called back to work.

"I work for the Department of Defense and at any given time they could say, 'Hey, it's time to come back to work,'" he says. "How can the immunocompromised self-isolate when their primary caretakers are being asked to go back to society?"

How to keep safe from the novel coronavirus when governments in the Mountain West begin reopening restaurants, bars, salons and other businesses is a question on the minds of many.

First off, the relaxing of stay-at-home directives will be done in stages and are contingent on people keeping socially distanced.

"There's not going to be a ribbon cutting and everything that has been closed or different will go back to the way it was two months ago," says Kim Deti, spokesperson for the Wyoming Department of Health. "In each phase, there will be judgement calls for families to make."

Deti recommends that immunocompromised individuals should continue to only leave their homes if absolutely necessary. And, if a family member is called back into work, they should follow CDC guidelines and make sure to wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and to maintain social distancing. She also recommends they wear face masks.

"If a family member is regularly in situations where they have some exposure risk, it is an option for them to consider [wearing one] at home," she says. "But the recommendation from CDC focuses on wearing them in public."

Daniel Pastula, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Epidemiology, says families with immunocompromised individuals need to be extra cautious during these times.

"They should try to stay home as much as possible," he says. "But realizing that they'll need to start going out, it's so important that they follow the current advice out there. It's not 100 percent perfect, but it will lower the risk."

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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