As we make every effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus — one deliberate act we should all practice is social distancing. But what does that mean exactly? One easy definition is that we deliberately increase the distance we are from those we don’t live with. Staying at least six feet away from each other decreases our chances of being infected.
Because social distancing, self-quarantine and self-isolation are new ideas for most of us, they’re being interpreted in very different ways (and not always correctly).
Here are key points you need to know.
Stay at Home
At a time when schools, restaurants, gyms, bars and entire seasons of sports have shut down or been canceled indefinitely, it’s important to point out what may be obvious for some and less so to others. Stay home, even if you don’t feel sick. When you’re not at home, make certain to remain at least six feet away from those you interact with in a public setting. Avoid large gatherings, work from home if your job allows for it and stop going to your friends’ houses. For the time being, it’s advised you only “visit” using your phone or computer.
With life largely turned upside down, it can be common — yearned for, even — to grasp at some form of normalcy. We are social creatures, after all. But avoiding everyone beyond your significant other and/or those you now live with allows you to to have a better chance of remaining healthy.
Act Like You’re Already Infected
One reason we urge you to separate yourself socially — by distancing or via quarantine — is because most who spread the virus do so without even knowing they’re doing it. Because the virus spreads from person to person, it needs another person to stay alive and spread. If you’re at home, you’re doing what you can to remain safe and slow the spread of coronavirus.
Think about it this way: With COVID-19, there is no available early treatment. You can’t go to your doctor early on and be prescribed medication to keep you well, because there is no antiviral for treatment. This means patients with even mild symptoms need to stay home for 14 days so they don’t expose others to the disease.
Social distancing may even mean being diagnosed over the telephone before actually coming into a clinic because patients may have an upper respiratory infection instead of COVID-19. If you’re already in a clinic when diagnosed, you can be separated immediately from those who are at higher risk. It’s also advised that you refill your medications over the telephone so you don’t risk unnecessary exposure.
By promoting social distancing at all levels and implementing telemedicine to avoid being exposed to potentially infected patients in the clinic, we limit the spread of infection. While many Americans and people around the world have resisted and even ignored the idea of social distancing, it is up to us — all of us — to promote an environment of safety and responsibility, for our own health and that of our neighbors.
Remember this is a temporary situation. For the time being, however, everyone benefits from social distancing practices. When we fail to take this situation seriously, we put ourselves — and those around us — at risk.
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