How to Explain Social Distancing

How to Explain Social Distancing

Blurred packed crowd to explain social distancing

Blurred packed crowd to explain social distancingHow do you even begin to explain social distancing to people in other countries? Even if you did not teach English during your time in Peace Corps service, there is a good chance you had to explain certain slang and terms from English that did not translate well into your host country language.

And now, the “experts” decided to create a new sleek term that is essentially an oxymoron in the English language. No, social distancing does not mean staying off social media or distancing yourself emotionally (aka socially) to others. Once upon a time before the invention of the telephone, being social requires being physically together. But to anyone under the age of 40 today, being socially together means using social media tools to connect online or through other digital means. So how do you explain social distancing?

Social Distancing Means Physical Distancing

Social distancing means staying a safe physical distance apart. In the past, safe or physical distancing is an effective tool when used for previous outbreaks of diseases. Keeping at least 6 feet or 2 meters apart minimizes transmissions. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, coronavirus, the virus causing COVID-19, hits the air. The virus can also remain viable for varying lengths of time, possibly days, on different surfaces. This means that we can inhale the virus through an infected person’s contaminated air via respiratory droplets. So, we can pick up the virus without ever seeing the infected person who contaminated the surfaces or objects we touch. COVID-19 is a new strain and research is still underway. So the medical community is still learning how to combat this virus.

What is Community Spread?

Unfortunately, too many myths are floating around about how COVID-19 is spread or who is immune. Sorry, drinking alcohol does not protect you. And, anyone in any climate can spread the virus. Cold weather does not kill the virus.

But community spread does pass the virus from person to person. People become infected without knowing how, when, or where they were exposed to the virus. Many who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms can still be carriers to infect others. So any time we leave our homes or invite guests into our homes during this pandemic, we may be risking infection. Going into a packed store, eating with others not living in your home, direct contact with delivery drivers without using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), not properly washing your hands, etc. means you are contributing to the potential community spread of COVID-19.

Staying Apart Makes Us Stronger Together

We already see the effects of overextended health care systems in other countries. In Italy, many health care systems are running out of beds for incoming patients. Worse yet, many of Italy’s health care professionals are getting sick themselves preventing them from their vital work during this crisis. Yet, Italy has a world class health system.

Throughout March, many cities saw spikes in COVID-19 infection cases and deaths when people did not practice safe or physical distancing. Now the rate of infection is starting to slow down as more people are staying physically apart and practicing safe healthy habits. More people are staying home. People are washing and sanitizing their hands more frequently. Delivery drivers are wearing PPE when bringing your groceries. Restaurants are closing their dining rooms. Grocery stores are limiting the number of shoppers.

When leaving your home, protect yourself with PPE to minimize community spread. Or better yet, don’t leave the house at all.

We are not even going to try to tackle explaining “herd immunity”. Stay safe and stay home until we get a proven vaccine!


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