Social Distancing – What is it and Why is it Important?


Health officials have instructed all of the public to practice social distancing in order to slow down and hopefully stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). As the United States continues to experience governmental orders to temporarily shut down public places and close down schools, social distancing is becoming a widely used term. There is a lot of confusion and anxiety surrounding social distancing with what it is and why it is important. We have found the answers to the most common questions and have included information that will help reduce your confusion and anxiety.

What is Social Distancing?

Social Distancing is a term used to describe staying away from people and microbial residue that people leave behind when touching objects. 

The coronavirus COVID-19 is spread from person to person via close social contact. The simplest way to avoid contracting the virus is to avoid close social contact. This is where social distancing comes in. It includes things such as working from home when possible, traveling only when necessary, avoiding groups or shopping unless it is for essential items, and staying at least 6 feet away from people outside your immediate family.

Why Practice Social Distance?

Social distancing is for your protection as much as those that may come into contact with places you have been and touched. The virus has up to a 14-day incubation period where you may feel no symptoms at all. During this time where you feel fine, you could be spreading the virus to others unknowingly. Social distancing, along with regular hand-washing and good hygiene practices, reduces the odds of people unknowingly spreading and contracting the virus. This especially helps vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, people with significant long-term medical problems like lung disease, heart disease, weak immune system, diabetes, neurological problems, kidney disease; and pregnant women, from getting the virus. Due to testing delays and limits, it is currently impossible to know who has the coronavirus which makes social distancing a very important practice.

Social distancing flattens the curve, meaning that these protective practices slow the rate of infection making it so that hospitals have enough room, supplies, and healthcare workers for all the patients who need care. There are still people who need hospital care even without the coronavirus, and the influx of patients could overload the hospitals, leaving less care available for those who need it. In order to prevent a shortage of care and to prevent too many people from becoming severely ill with the coronavirus, the CDC is recommending that everyone implement social distancing. This will give the hospitals a better chance of being able to stay caught up with the patients and have adequate supplies for them.

Who Should Practice Social Distancing?

It is critical for everyone to start practicing social distancing. As stated before, implementing social distancing is not just for your safety, it is for the safety of everyone. Social distancing is not something just for the sick, especially because you could have the virus and not experience any symptoms for weeks, or even only have mild symptoms and mistake it for a cold or allergies. When everyone puts into practice social distancing, the population is being saved from unknowingly spreading or coming into contact with the virus which ultimately stops the spread. It is everyone’s personal responsibility to make sure that they are not the vector of disease. Social Distancing is how we can break the chain of transmission and get a better hold of curing those who have contracted the coronavirus.

How Do I Practice Social Distancing?

  • Stay Home: Whether you feel sick or not, this is the first and most important step for social distancing. You are still allowed to play in your backyard and have fun at home. You are also not bound to your house, but it is recommended to leave only to run essential errands.
  • Stay 6 Feet Away: It is recommended to stay between 3 and 6 feet away from people outside of your own immediate family. Whether at the store or when outside, staying 3-6 feet away from others lowers the transmission risk of the virus.
  • Avoid Crowds: Cancel any plans that you may have made that involve large crowds or members outside of your household. It is possible that your immediate social circle may involve another household, such as that of immediate family members. Be sure that everyone under your care and in your immediate social circle avoids unnecessary social contact and maintain a high level of hygiene.
  • Don’t Share: This is the one time in life where sharing is not caring. Public health experts are asking us to err on the side of greater caution which, in this case, includes not sharing. This is to avoid the spread or contraction of the coronavirus. It is recommended to not share items with anyone outside of your household.
  • Stay in Touch to Avoid Loneliness: We are social beings that thrive on connectedness. Though it is extremely important to practice social distancing right now, that doesn’t mean you have to be isolated away from everything. It is important for your mental health to make sure to find ways to stay connected to the outside world, family, and friends. You can do this through phone calls, video chats, and social media.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Can I go to the gym?

Most gyms are closed as of now, but even if yours isn’t it is irresponsible to go. Many fitness experts and companies are offering FREE virtual workouts and training right now to make the transition easier and keep people motivated. Gyms are crowded enclosed places where equipment is not sanitized after every use. The virus can live on surfaces for up to 3 days. It is safer to exercise at home or outside.

A good example of social distancing to avoid the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Two people stand apart holding two umbrellas.

Can I Make Play-Dates for my Kids or Hold Game Nights?

It is recommended only to visit with those in your immediate social circle. Social distancing applies between you and everyone not in your immediate care or household. You can hold virtual game nights and let your kids FaceTime their friends when they need a social boost, but as of now, it is important to stay out of unnecessary groups. It is also recommended to avoid playgrounds due to their lack of sanitation.

Can I Go Out to Eat?

Most cities have already placed restrictions on food services. Most restaurants are still offering take-out options which are a viable alternative. It is safest to follow government mandates and not eat out or go out for unessential reasons. You can still go to the grocery store and now is a great opportunity to learn how to cook fun meals with the family.

Should I Wear a Face Mask?

The CDC recommends wearing home-made masks when going out into public areas. It is important to reserve the N95 FFR respirator masks for healthcare workers. You can find an instructional video on how to make your own mask here.

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