Love in the Time of Home Quarantine

Nicola Twilley has pointed out this awesomely over-the-top post about home quarantine measures taken in the face of swine flu.

From sealing off your home ventilation system to turning the basement into a functioning medical ward—stashing “Pandemic Go-Kits” in the trunk of your car and wearing a full biohazard suit along the way—this is certainly one, albeit rather extreme, way to keep yourself safe from catching the flu. To the author’s credit, however, he does mention that one of his children is quite sick.

But the architectural transformations implied here—a suburban house in Utah becomes a post-apocalyptic medical ward with just a quick trip to Home Depot in between—is remarkable. In fact, a fantastic article could be written about the vernacular architecture of American survivalism, with an emphasis on the incidental equipment necessary for living in home quarantine.

In any case, the setting:

I live in a 2 story house, the basement is designed as a separate apartment; there is a kitchen, laundry room and 3 bedrooms down there, with a separate outside entrance. I live in the country on 50 acres and there are very few people around us. I have 8 children, 7 of whom live at home.

And here, specifically, is “the quarantine plan,” if you’ll excuse my quoting at great length:

The entire basement will immediately become the sick ward. The air vents, doorways and the upstairs entrance to the basement will be sealed off with 6 mil plastic to deter air flow. The window to the sick room will be open to allow fresh air circulation. I plan to get a UV Air filtration system to use in the basement as well. The sick person will be confined to a bedroom while in the house and will be allowed to play outside in a designated area that the other children will not be allowed to go to. The bathroom will become a decon room to dress and undress for entry into the sick rooms. The basement laundry room will be the only place the sick person and caretakers laundry will be done. All dishes used by the sick person will be washed in the sink downstairs. The sick person will be required to wear an N95 mask anytime someone is in the room with them, anyone going into the room will need full protective gear on (more on that in a minute). The sick rooms will be sanitized twice a day including changing and washing all linens on the bed. All paper trash (kleenexes, etc) that is able will be burned in our fire pit daily. All other trash will be collected into a garbage bags and disposed of twice daily.

To get this stage, “several specific preps” are required; these include purchasing the right breathing masks. The author points out, for instance, that “the filters I have for my respirator are 95% (like N95) filters—meaning they miss 5%. I’m planning on getting N100 filters to replace them. I’ll be doing that in the next week or two.”

On a side note, there is such a thing as too much filtration. Last week, for instance, a Miami hotel accidentally gave some of its guests Legionnaire’s Disease by installing filters so powerful that they prevented even bacteria-killing chlorine from entering the drinking water; this led to a bloom of the often-fatal Legionella bacteria. As Miami county’s “top epidemiologist” points out in the article, “What’s ironic is the hotel installed a special filtration system to enhance the quality of their drinking water.”

Home preparation doesn’t end with filters, however; there is psychological preparation, as well. Feelings of cabin fever and claustrophobia inspired by the spatial condition of quarantine can be partially relieved, we read, through playing “classic games like Clue, Pictionary, and Scrabble“… while the rest of your family is locked behind an air-seal in the basement.

A commenter on the original post writes: “It’s good to be prepared, but, stop a minute and think about it. Tyvek® hazmat suits? Full-face respirators? You’re likely to scare your kid to death with the Moon Suit!” But the blog has its sights set on more important things; its tagline is nothing less than “Ready for anything.”

3 thoughts on “Love in the Time of Home Quarantine”

  1. I find it very peculiar that a person would go to such great lengths with his "preparedness" while not doing his homework or even thinking for a few minutes about whether his measures can work. For example, the respirator only filters incoming air so anything that the sick person exhales will never go through the filter. And then there's the slight problem that by the time you show outward symptoms of, say, the swine flu, you have already been contagious for a couple of days and have infected your family.

  2. I think that they may be serious control freaks.It really sounds like some kind of bizarre prison for their own children…

  3. Things like that are dangerous. I recall a story in the past in which a man placed this plastic throughout his home and duct-taped all the openings to seal off the home, and eventually the family was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning.

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