Why People Are Social Distancing, And Why You Should Too!
As of April 2020, the Coronavirus has begun hitting every part of the country and has a high potential of becoming the worst pandemic we’ve faced in the past century. We are now in the mitigation phase of the outbreak, meaning the virus is already here so the focus now is to mitigate, or reduce, the damage from the disease.
Social distancing is one of the ways we can achieve this. It refers to avoiding close contact with other individuals in order to avoid catching the virus yourself and passing it on. Social distancing also extends to environmental precautions, such as actively disinfecting often-touched surfaces that may pass on the virus.
We’ll explain why these public health measures are being taken and what each of us can do to slow the outbreak and help to save lives.
Why social distancing is key in containing the new coronavirus.
Why is social distancing needed? Experts say the risk is that a sudden surge in patients needing critical medical care will overload the health care system and leave medical staff helpless. To put numbers behind it, there are currently 98,000 intensive care unit beds and 62,000 ventilators available in the U.S. As of the 31st of March we had over 200,000 infected, and it’s projected to reach millions of people in April/May.
We’re already beginning to see this overcapacity today in places like New York city which is struggling to manage all it’s sick and asked for support from Medical Naval Ships.
Social distancing helps us avoid this critical health care challenge by reducing the amount of people sick simultaneously.
In order to understand how that works, you must begin with understanding the virus’ reproductive number. This number describes how many people an infected individual will go on to infect.
We can do a simple comparison as an example. After 10 days of transmissions - with the seasonal flu you’d have less than 60 people sick; while COVID- 19 would be in the thousands.
Why is it spreading so fast?
Researchers believe that it’s likely due to the movement of people who are unaware of the fact that they have contracted the virus — either because they had mild symptoms or because they had no symptoms at all. In the original outbreak in China 50% of cases were non-confirmed and this included people with no or limited symptoms who remained socially active - thus increasing the spread.
Social distancing allows us to prevent similar mistakes and therefore reduce that virus’ reproductive number in order to save more people.
What social distancing means in daily life
State and local governments have encouraged social distancing by banning large gatherings, shutting down food and entertainment venues and closing schools. They’ve also suggested avoiding crowded public transportation if possible.
There’s an idea floating around that if you’re young you shouldn’t have to worry so much about COVID-19 and social distancing -
“it’s sort of like the flu”
There are two important counterpoints to this:
1. Anyone who becomes infected can spread the virus to an older person or someone who is immunocompromised
2. Even if it’s to a lesser degree - young people are also dying. And don’t forget unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine for the Coronavirus. This disease is no joke.
The guidelines are that everyone should stay at home except for certain essential activities, such as grocery shopping or to seek medical care, or to perform work for essential businesses, government agencies, or public infrastructure construction. And with any one of these activities to try and remain 6 feet from people and be aware of the surfaces you come into contact with.
We recommend keeping hand sanitizer with you. if you don’t have any, consider checking out our guide to make some at home.
Frequently asked questions
How do I practice social distancing?
- Stay home as much as you can, avoid crowded spaces, stay 6 feet away from people outside of your own family.
Do I need to practice social distancing if I’m symptom-free?
- Yes, you could appear totally symptom-free and still carry the virus, helping it spread to more of the community.
Can I schedule play dates for my kids?
- We don’t advise having children interact at the moment, as hard as that can be when everyone’s cooped up for so long. We understand the challenge, but children are home from school because even though they’re not particularly high risk of getting sick from COVID-19, they can still be carriers. If one of them then interacts with their grandparents that could be dangerous to their health.
Can I go to restaurants and bars?
- Many cities already have restrictions in place, but even if they don’t, we advise you strongly against spending time in restaurants and bars. There are a lot of shared, common spaces that make it easy to spread the Coronavirus.
Can I visit my older parents or grandparents?
- Our elders are some of the most vulnerable so it makes sense we would be most concerned for their health and safety. At SABEResPODER, we understand the desire to watch over and care for our parents or grandparents, but it’s equally important to consider carefully how certain you are you’re not infectious. The general guideline we offer is only to make physical contact for critical needs and save the social visits for after this crisis is over.
Can I have a few friends over for game night?
- “Only if they’re in your inner circle. Keep it to smaller circles that always interact with each other — and even better, only each other” said Dr. Thomas Jaenisch - infectious disease epidemiologist.
Managing Social Distancing
We understand and empathize with how challenging and strange this all feels. In order to keep a little sanity, perspective and care during this time, we recommend communicating more using digital services. We’ve created a user friendly guide on all the ways you can communicate with your friends and family, including some more playful ideas like Netflix Watch Parties.
We also offer a detailed guide on what to do if you’ve lost your job or experienced a reduction in work due to the virus and social distancing rules.
Lastly, if you need to travel and want clarity on how to do so with social distancing in mind, check out our guide on travel during the pandemic.
As hard as it may be for us today, experts around the world are saying that social distancing is the most effective measure of containing the spread of the new coronavirus. “Every person who limits their social contact can become a broken link in the chain of contagion.” shared Dr. Jaenisch.
We need you, your family, your friends and everyone in the community to pull together in order for us to come out of this with as few seriously ill people as possible.
If you have questions about social distancing or any other topic around the Coronavirus, please don’t hesitate.