Since coronavirus started spreading in America, you’ve probably heard health care experts and public health officials recommend social distancing. But what you may not be clear about is exactly what this term means, why it’s so important or how to do it the right way.
Understanding how and why to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic can help keep you and your family healthy and prevent spreading the virus to others. When we all practice social distancing, we can flatten the curve of coronavirus, slowing its spread in our country.
How Coronavirus Spreads
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social distancing is especially important with coronavirus because it seems to be spreading “easily and sustainably in the community.” Although experts are still learning about every way in which it spreads, they think it is most often passed from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes, spreading droplets through the air and into the mouths or noses of nearby people.
However, some people with coronavirus might be contagious before they show symptoms of the illness, and some people never develop symptoms, even though they test positive for coronavirus. This means it’s possible for someone to spread coronavirus before they even know they have it, which makes social distancing even more important.
What Does Social Distancing Mean?
Social distancing means limiting social contact with other people to prevent the spread of illness. Many states have already started to implement social distancing on a larger level, by closing schools and non-essential businesses and prohibiting large gatherings and events. The U.S. government has also taken steps to enforce social distancing by closing borders and limiting air travel.
Social Distancing: Steps You Can Take to Do It Right
You can do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus through practicing social distancing every day of this pandemic. Overall, avoid all non-essential travel and stay home as much as possible.
Experts also recommend that everyone take these steps to help further prevent the spread of coronavirus:
- Avoiding all social gatherings (remember it’s only temporary)
- Don’t visit long-term health care facilities or nursing homes unless you need to provide critical assistance
- Follow guidelines from the CDC to stay safe at work if you can’t work from home
- Get your groceries delivered (there are several smartphone apps you can use)
- Stay at least 6 feet away from other people if you have to leave home
- Use delivery or pickup options at restaurants instead of eating in
Extra Steps for People at Higher Risk
According to the CDC, some people are at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus, including people who:
- Are age 65 or older
- Are immunocompromised, including undergoing cancer treatment
- Are severely obese (with a BMI of 40 or greater)
- Have a weakened immune system or are on immune-suppressing medications
- Have certain underlying health conditions, such as renal failure, heart, liver or lung disease, asthma and diabetes
- Live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
If you are in one of the higher-risk groups or live with someone who is, it’s even more important to stay home as much as possible and take precautions in public areas to avoid possible exposure. Read how to support your at-risk loved ones without leaving home.
Staying Connected Despite Social Distancing
Even though you may need to stay physically distant from family and friends, it’s important to stay connected to others for your mental health. Fortunately, modern technology offers us plenty of ways to connect with others virtually.
Here are some ideas for keeping in touch while staying home:
- Call a friend or family member you haven’t spoken with in a while to reconnect
- Join an online group or class
- Set up a video chat or use an online video conferencing system
- Write an email or handwritten letter to a friend
Stay Informed on Coronavirus News
Information about coronavirus is changing every day. We have a wide range of information about coronavirus, including the answers to frequently asked questions, on our Coronavirus Resource Hub. Visit often to get the latest updates and tips to keep your family safe and healthy.