What is Social Distancing?

Guide to Social Distancing
We have been hearing a lot of talk about “social distancing” as a method to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  I thought we might talk more about what that is, and how best to practice it, so that you can stay safe and healthy.

What is social distancing?
 Social distancing is not the same thing as being quarantined or being in isolation.  All of these things are being used to minimize coronavirus spread.  Here is the basic difference between these safety measures. A quarantine or isolation restricts a person’s movement within a certain area.  If you have been exposed to the coronavirus, or think you may have the virus, you should quarantine or isolate yourself.  This means that you should not leave your house during the two week quarantine period for any reason.  You should not be going out into any public spaces, and other people should not be coming into your home.
Social distancing does not limit your movement or your access to public spaces.  It is a behavioral practice to lower the risk in most circumstances.  It basically means putting distance between you and others around you, particularly when you are outside your home.  It is a fairly general term, and there are different types of practices that can fall into the category of social distancing.  Working from home is one way of practicing social distancing, but not everyone is able to work from home.  There are a number of things that you can do that fall into the category of social distancing.  Here are a few:

  • Avoid unnecessary trips outside your home.  Leave home for work if necessary.  Go to the grocery store or pharmacy only when necessary and buy enough to avoid frequent trips.  Take advantage of any available option for buying groceries online for delivery or pick up.
  • If you must go to work, try to avoid in-person meetings.  Use email or the phone when possible.  If a meeting is unavoidable, it should be in a large room, where people can remain 3-6 feet away from each other.
  • Avoid gatherings of more than 5 people, or any gathering where close contact with others is likely.  This includes gatherings in open spaces.  Just because you are on a beach or in a park, does not mean that you are safe.  The virus spreads in open spaces if you are close to someone.
  • Try to keep a distance of at least 3 feet, and preferably 6 feet, between you and other people.  Avoid shaking hands or hugging people, even if they are friends.  Familiarity with someone provides no assurance that they do not have the coronavirus.
  • Avoid public transportation when possible (walk, ride a bike, or take your own car instead).  If you do need to take public transportation, try to go early or late to avoid crowds.
  • Avoid crowded restaurants.  Do take out or delivery instead.
  • Avoid playdates for your children.

As a compliment to social distancing measures, we should also focus on good infection control measures, which include the following:

  • Clean and sanitize frequently touched surfaces often
  • Wash your hands frequently and encourage children to do the same, or use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Use a tissue to cover a sneeze or cough, then throw it in the trash
  • Do not go to work if you are sick

It can be hard to change some of these behaviors, but we all need to work together to stop the spread of coronavirus.  If we all work to stop the spread together, we can make an impact and save lives.  You may even save the life of someone you love.

If you have any more questions just Ask Hanna, our health advisors are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor
Image: ©Shutterstock / Kzenon

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