- Corinn Cross, MD, FAAP
Social Distancing: Why Keeping Your Distance Helps Keep Others Safe
As the spread of COVID-19 continues, communities are being asked to reduce close contact between people. This is called social distancing, and it's an important and effective way to slow down the spread of this virus. Here's why.
“Social distancing" for all families
Because COVID-19 spreads from person to person, reducing the ways people come in close contact with each other is essential. Social distancing means staying home as much as possible and avoiding crowded, public places where close contact with others is likely. This includes shopping centers, movie theaters, stadiums, even large church gatherings. This is why most events and gatherings of more than 10 people have been cancelled, why restaurants and bars are closing, and why many schools have moved to online learning. For essential trips like grocery shopping, the CDC recommends trying to stay at least 6 feet away from others.
COVID-19 can spread from person to person even before symptoms start. So, if someone in your family starts to feel even slightly ill, run down, tired, or achy, it's important to stay home and practice “self isolation." This means limiting contact with others. If more severe symptoms develop, like a fever, cough or shortness of breath, call your doctor. They will let you know if a COVID-19 test is needed, and what the next steps should be. If it is believed someone in your family has COVID-19, quarantine will likely be recommended.
Self-isolation and quarantine both mean you have no contact with the public. However, quarantine is the term used for those who were exposed to a person with COVID-19 but have yet to test positive. These people are asked to stay away from others for 14 days or longer, to make sure they do not spread the virus during this “pre-illness" or incubation period.
Why social distancing is important
Social distancing is an essential way to slow down the spread of COVID-19. And it's important that you follow the social distancing recommendations in your community, whether you're in one of the high-risk groups or not.
With more and more schools closing and people working from home, it may be tempting to get kids together for playdates or sleepovers, or to think that gatherings of more than 10 people are safe. But social distancing only works if we all participate. And slowing down or preventing the spread of the virus will save lives.
The spread of COVID-19 has been rapid and federal, state, and local governments are doing whatever is necessary to protect all of us from getting sick. While most people who become infected will have symptoms similar to a cold or the flu, and children seem less affected by the virus than adults, we all are responsible for protecting those at higher risk. Steps like social distancing may feel like an inconvenience, but it's the best way right now to protect our family, friends, and neighbors who may be vulnerable.
If you are concerned that someone in your family may be at higher risk, you can contact your doctor to discuss what preventative measures may be appropriate for you.
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