Social distancing is a new way of life in the United States and around the world. You’ve surely noticed how it has affected your life, but do you still have questions about what exactly you should be doing, and why? We explain the basics here.
What is social distancing?
Along with hand washing, social distancing is one of the best defenses we have against COVID-19. Practicing social distancing means staying home, avoiding crowds, and avoiding physical contact with other people. It also means staying at least six feet away from people at all times, including other people in your household.
Though it can be lonely and unsettling to live by social distancing guidelines, it’s extremely important. It may not be convenient, but it will help slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.
Why is social distancing important?
If all Americans adhere to social distancing guidelines, it will have a dramatic impact on the spread of the coronavirus. The goal of social distancing is to flatten the curve – that is, avoid a massive spike in the number of cases by reducing the rate of spread – so that hospitals don’t become overwhelmed. Medical experts agree that many of the nation’s hospitals will be overwhelmed by floods of coronavirus patients, but to what degree will depend on what we all do right now.
By staying home and avoiding close contact with people, we will see fewer new cases in the next few weeks, when cases in many places are expected to peak. As a result, hospitals will be better able to cope with the number of patients they have, and fewer people will die.
What does six feet look like?
Staying at least six feet apart from other people is a critical part of social distancing, but how can you tell if you’re standing too close? A recent CNN article offered a few creative ways to visualize it.
Six feet is roughly the length of two golden retrievers standing nose to tail, or two adult cats laying head to tail. It’s also the width of an average sedan, the length of an average couch or mattress, or the width of a moose’s antlers.
Where can I go?
90% of Americans are now under stay-at-home orders, and complying with stay-at-home orders is so important to slowing the spread of COVID-19. While there are few public places you can go, you can still go to the grocery store and the pharmacy. You should not go out in public for anything except essential errands.
Going for a walk or run is fine – even beneficial to your physical and mental health – but stay at least six feet away from people you encounter.
Will wearing a mask stop me from getting sick?
Wearing a face mask will not stop you from being exposed to COVID-19, but some medical experts are now recommending wearing one when you go out in public. Though it may not prevent you from getting sick, it will prevent you from passing on COVID-19 to another person if you’re infected but asymptomatic. So, if everyone wears a mask, fewer people will be exposed.
N95 masks, however, should be reserved for the medical professionals who really need them. A basic surgical mask is enough for trips to the grocery store.
Stay safe by following social distancing guidelines and washing your hands! We’re all in this together.