COVID-19: How to Social Distance (now a verb)

“Social distancing” is a public health strategy that helps populations slow the transmission of contagious diseases.

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the United States, authorities have urged communities to suspend school and cancel large events. Individuals are urged to stay at least six feet from others when moving through public spaces.

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Authorities recommend stocking up on food, water, medicine, and other necessary supplies for a potential quarantine lasting up to two weeks.

If you go to a restaurant or bar, make sure you are not seated close to others. Go to the gym during slow periods and sanitize equipment before and after use. If possible, avoid public transportation and work from home.

Wash your hands frequently and pay attention to things you touch that may have been touched by others. A recent study by the NIH suggests the coronavirus can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard, for up to three days on stainless steel and plastic, and for up to three hours when airborne.

A study in Singapore confirmed significant viral shedding in infected patients’ fecal samples, meaning the flush of a public toilet could, in theory, send infectious particles into the air.

Social distancing doesn’t just apply to strangers. Be careful not to put blind trust in extended family members and friends. In terms of germs, inviting loved ones into your home is the same thing as interacting with a stranger. Be aware that any items shared with your partner, such as vehicle keys, may have touched public surfaces.

Those over the age of 60 or with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma should take special care to avoid contact with others.

Individuals experiencing mild symptoms (sore throat, runny nose, dry cough, fatigue, low fever, shortness of breath) should stay home until symptoms disappear. Individuals experiencing severe symptoms (gastrointestinal distress, chest pain, confusion, strained breathing) or coughing up blood or mucus should seek medical attention.

“I think it’s a hard time because many of the recommendations we’re making are about increasing the distance between people, but of course, being close to people is what makes life a pleasure,” says Carolyn Cannuscio, the director of research at the Center for Public Health Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. “So this is going to be a very difficult time. No question.”

A pandemic cannot be stopped once it has started, but social distancing and other strategies will slow the spread of the disease and give us more time to prepare. It’s important to remember that if “nothing happens” our strategies are working.

All the canceled trips and layoffs are more than inconvenient, but our population must be flexible in order to survive.

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