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Coronavirus: What Is Social Distancing?

Written by Lauren Smaldone, ANP

How to help your community slow the spread of COVID-19.

We are continuing to learn about the new coronavirus and the disease it causes, referred to as COVID-19 or the coronavirus disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all Americans be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their community.

At this time, there is no vaccine or medication available for COVID-19. The best course of action is to practice individual and community-based strategies to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus and to reduce overall illness and death. Slowing down the spread of the disease also helps to protect individuals who are at increased risk for severe illness, such as older adults and those with underlying health conditions.

Even if you aren’t worried about your own health, efforts taken by all of us can help reduce the transmission of the coronavirus to the most vulnerable people among us.

We talked about some of the ways you can keep yourself healthy in this article. This includes washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects. Now let’s discuss a community-based strategy called “social distancing”.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing refers to measures taken to avoid crowds and minimize close contact with others in order to avoid spreading illness. The overall goal is to keep individuals approximately 6 feet away from others when possible.

Why is social distancing important?

When a person coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth. If the person coughing has the coronavirus disease COVID-19, the droplets from their coughs or sneezes may spread the virus to others. If you are too close, you can breathe in these droplets and become ill. Preventing this exposure through social distancing can significantly slow and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Examples of social distancing

Social distancing can be accomplished through both individual actions and by local and state officials. Social distancing could include things like postponing or canceling mass gatherings such as sporting events, concerts, or religious gatherings.

The cancellations of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Texas, the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland, and the Cherry Blossom Festival in Tokyo, Japan, are three recent examples.

Social distancing can also be accomplished by closing schools or encouraging people who can to work from home. Social distancing on the individual level can include avoiding the subway during rush hour.

Should I practice social distancing?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

Again, even if you aren’t worried about your own health, efforts taken by all of us can help reduce the transmission of the coronavirus to the most vulnerable people among us, including those who are pregnant, over the age of 65, and have pre-existing medical conditions (like respiratory or heart problems, a weaker immune system, or poor overall health).

Let’s all practice social distancing by avoiding large crowds, working from home if possible, and trying to stay the recommended 6 feet away from others when in public.

Please take advantage of HeyDoctor’s free screening to evaluate your symptoms and overall risk level.

The bottom line

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless in a period of uncertainty like this one, but small steps taken by individuals and communities have a large impact to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Continue to check in with the CDC or your state’s health department website (listed below) for the most up-to-date information on how to stay safe.

State resources

Find your state department of health website below.

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The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HeyDoctor, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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