How to Practice Social Distancing


Headlines and news reports are devoted to covering coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It’s easy to become overwhelmed and frightened, especially if you’re an older adult or have a chronic medical condition. For people in this group, the virus can be life-threatening or even fatal.

The current guidance for staying inside our homes may seem like an extreme overreaction. You may not know anyone who has actually caught the virus. Perhaps it hasn’t affected your community yet. However, public health experts such as the Centers for Disease Control say “social distancing” is essential for our personal and the public’s health. Social distancing means strictly limiting our contact with the outside world and keeping about six feet apart from other people. In fact, social distancing is the most effective action we can take to curb this potentially deadly virus.

Public health experts who have studied social distancing tell us that it works better to curb the spread of COVID-19 than even strictly enforcing quarantines. (This graphic simulation published by the Washington Post shows how well social distancing can work against the spread of an imagined virus).

“Every single reduction in the number of contacts you have each day with relatives, friends, co-workers, in school, will have a significant impact on the ability of the virus to spread in the population,” said Dr. Gerardo Chowell, chair of population health sciences at Georgia State University, to the New York Times.

Practices that can minimize the spread of COVID-19 include:

  • Practice social distancing
  • Avoid taking public transportation or making non-essential trips
  • Work from home if possible
  • Avoid social gatherings
  • Don’t patronize bars, restaurants, or movie theaters or visit places where people gather

When you must make essential trips, such as to the grocery store, pharmacy, or other public spaces:

  • Use a disinfectant wipe to cleanse anything you touch or use a tissue/napkin as a barrier
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and don’t touch your face
  • Most importantly, wash your hands vigorously and frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (sing “happy birthday” twice) as soon as you return home

How long will this last? We don’t know right now. But practicing good habits such as social distancing and careful hygiene will play a role in how well we manage to slow the spread of the virus.

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