By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
I am over 65 years old, and I am the care giver for my sister, who is also over age 65 and lives alone. We both have medical conditions and my sister’s are numerous. I go to my sister’s apartment to take care of her and we are staying isolated from others as much as possible as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.
My very real concern is that I own my home and I have a roommate, who is over the age of 60, and works at a group home for troubled adolescents that operates 24 hours a day. According to my research on how COVID-19 spreads, this type of facility is considered a high-risk environment for coronavirus as young people may be asymptomatic. Most of the staff live off-site.
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She also has medical issues, but continues to work because she says she needs the money. I told her that I would help by not asking for her financial contribution to the household if she would stop working, and also isolate at home. She refused, and continued to work. I gave her an ultimatum to isolate at home or move out for the protection of me, my sister and herself.
She chose to leave and is staying in a room at the facility where she works, but her manager told her that she can only stay there until mid-April. After that, she will need somewhere to live. I don’t want her to come back to my home, if she continues to work. Can I force her not to move back if she continues to work at a place that is a high-risk environment?
Worried in Los Angeles County
Your concerns are valid. Your fears are understandable. Your actions are unreasonable.
Your roommate has never been a problem. It appears that she has always paid her rent on time, and worked hard. I assume she loves her job, and you can be sure she is also scared about contracting coronavirus. I hope that her employer is taking the necessary precautions to reduce the likelihood that there will be any transmission of COVID-19 to or from the staff. Young people may have mild symptoms or may be asymptomatic. So you’re correct about that.
However, I don’t believe kicking your roommate out is the answer. Nor do I believe it’s fair to give her an ultimatum, especially when she needs the money and has nowhere else to live. I get that you’re scared, but don’t let your fear change who you are, assuming that you are usually a person who endeavors to do the right thing. Under California law, if your roommate is paying rent, she is living there on a month-to-month basis. At the very least, you must give her 30 days to 60 days notice.
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced emergency orders on April 6 to prevent landlords from evicting tenants, except in matters of public health and safety. The new rule is, at best, unclear. “We are at this point truly with no guidance in history, law or precedent,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the state’s Judicial Council, said in a statement. “To say that there is no playbook is a gross understatement of the situation.” Your roommate may not be aware of such measures.
In the meantime, you can attempt social-distancing, and change the way you live, make rules about washing hands when you come home, wear face masks, and ensure that plates and cutlery are kept separate and/or washed in hot water with soap. None of these measures are guarantees against COVID-19, but they’re good practice. Stay with your sister, if you must. Treat your roommate as if she were working in a supermarket or a hospital. Her job is important too. She needs it.
At times like this, it’s important to take all recommendations to stay healthy, but it’s equally important not to lose our compassion for others and humanity.
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