Social distancing is an infection control action that public health officials take to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. The goal is for people to avoid close contact with each other and stay six feet apart.
Simply put, avoiding close contact with others. This means no mass gatherings or unnecessary travel to places where people may congregate. If you absolutely must be out in public, maintain a six-foot radius of space.
In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, one important thing we can all do is practice social distancing.
Social distancing can slow down the spread of COVID-19 by giving it fewer opportunities to jump from person to person.
Scientists estimate that one person infected with the coronavirus will infect another 3.3 people, on average. The higher that number (known as the reproductive number), the faster a virus spreads.
Several factors influence the reproductive number, including how contagious the virus is, how susceptible people are, how many times people interact with each other, and how long those interactions last. Social distancing aims to reduce the last two items on that list, which would in turn reduce the reproductive number and slow a disease’s spread, said Dr. Jeffrey Martin, an infectious diseases epidemiologist at UC San Francisco.
Self-quarantine and self-isolation are specific forms of social distancing.
Self-quarantine is when you don’t necessarily feel ill, but as a precaution, separate yourself from others. This is usually because there’s a good chance you’ve been exposed to a disease. Self-isolation is when you actually have symptoms and don’t want to get other people sick. In the case of COVID-19, both should last about 14 days, enough time for any potential symptoms to manifest in an environment where the virus can’t infect other people.
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If you can work from home, you should. Don’t gather in shared public spaces or at public events, like gyms, restaurants, festivals or concerts. Avoid cruises and nonessential travel, particularly if you’re at higher risk of getting very sick from the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
If you absolutely have to get prepared food, don’t eat in —use the takeout window or have it delivered. Pay using your debit or credit card over the phone when possible for delivery.
If you have to go to the store for groceries or other essentials, try to go during “off-peak hours.” While you’re there, maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and other people. That will lessen the chance that you’ll catch the virus from droplets spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. Also, be sure to clean shared surfaces before and after you come into contact with them.
I still need to go to work. Is it OK to take my child to day care?
Try to find a day care setting with a small number of kids, don’t send them to day care if they’re sick. Make sure the day care provider will be using best practices and wiping down all of the toys often, with disinfecting cleaners such as Clorox wipes or a bleach solution. Evidence suggests that the coronavirus can live on surfaces like plastic for up to 72 hours.
Are play dates OK?
It is best to put off playdates for now. Just because someone looks well, doesn’t mean they can’t transmit the COVID-19.
What’s more, symptoms of COVID-19 on average take five days to show up from the time of infection — but a person can still pass it on to other people during that time. So while it might be tempting to have one or two kids over, don’t do it, says Dr. Asaf Bitton, a primary care physician and public health researcher affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan, says the goal is for parents to limit exposure, period. “My guidance right now to families is, as much as possible, do not have your kids in other people’s houses. Do not have other people’s kids in your house. There are times where for child care arrangements or for absolute necessity, you need to have one or two or more kids together. But if at all possible, really just keep kids at home.”
What about playing outside with other kids or going to the park?
If you allow your children outside to play with other children, make sure the children keep at least 6 feet of distance from other children (which can be very hard for younger children).
And for adults, what about having close friends over to visit?
The new CDC guidance is to avoid social visits for now.
Can I travel? I’m seeing really cheap airfares now.
The CDC is telling people to avoid discretionary travel. You should be minimizing contact with others outside your immediate household.
I had a doctor’s visit scheduled months ago. Should I still go?
If it’s a nonessential visit to a doctor or dentist, reschedule it, Birx said Tuesday during a White House press conference. “Things that don’t need to be done over the next two weeks, don’t get it done. If you’re a person with an elective surgery, you don’t want to go into a hospital right now.” She urged people to “be responsible” to free up hospital beds and space.
I need to go to the grocery store. How do I do that in a way that’s safest for me and others?
This counts as an essential trip, of course. But try going to the grocery store during off-peak hours, when it’s less likely to be crowded, says Dr. Sean O’Leary, an assistant professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
You can leave your house, just minimize your interactions with other people. Use this time for activities such as: going for walks, gardening or exercise.
There are social-distancing measures that organizations can take in places where community spread of a virus is minimal to moderate, the CDC says.
Utilize technology! Video and phone chat with friends and loved ones.
Offer support by sharing contact information or dropping food or goods off to neighbors who might not be able to go out themselves.