All About Social Distancing for COVID-19
Written by Shrinidhi Sathish l Originally published March 17, 2020
First of all, what even is “social distancing”? It means exactly what it seems like it does, but it exists for purposes that are far more crucial than what you may assume.
You’ve probably heard a variety of terms used to describe the fight against COVID-19, including “isolation”, “quarantine”, etc. They all have distinct definitions and should not be used interchangeably, as they each represent their own degree of intensity.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space (to at least 6 feet) between people to avoid spreading illness. Quarantine is used for people who have been exposed to the coronavirus and are at risk of infecting others. Isolation is used for people who have tested positive for the illness.
What all of these terms have in common is one thing: staying away from others in order to prevent the coronavirus from being transmitted further.
For the vast majority of you, your current stage is social distancing, unless you happen to be in special circumstances and fit into one of the other categories. You may be wondering why social distancing is so critical l to understand. You may be thinking to yourself, “Why can’t I leave my house if cases are going to rise regardless?”
You may be looking fondly at the restaurant across the street from where you live, longing to eat there with your friends now that you finally have time off from school or work. If you yield to these dangerous temptations, it could have serious consequences for the state of public health in these dire times.
To break down these implications, let me first explain what another term means: “flattening the curve.” This refers to using preventative practices in order to slow the rate of COVID-19 infection, so hospitals have room, supplies, and doctors for all of the patients who need care, as stated by Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The main purpose of taking precautions such as working from home, closing schools, cancelling events, etc. is to ensure that our healthcare system will not become overwhelmed, as is occurring in Italy. Not following such measures could lead to the shortage of equipment and staff that are essential to the treatment of patients, as hospitals experience a surge of new cases.
Another significant factor to consider is the reproductive number of the coronavirus, which is currently in the range of 1.4 to 6.5, with an average of 3.3, according to the University of California San Francisco. This means that an individual who is infected with COVID-19 will go on to infect roughly that many more people.
Additionally, the incubation period for COVID-19 is 2-14 days, meaning that an individual may not show any symptoms for up to two weeks after being infected. During this period of time, that person could unknowingly infect tens, hundreds, even thousands of other people just by attending a gathering. Coming into contact with anyone is a risk not worth taking.
Last but not least, some experts state that more than 120 million Americans may eventually be afflicted by this disease. If even a fraction of those people are in critical condition, it would surpass the 98,000 intensive care unit beds and 62,000 full-feature ventilators available in the U.S., rendering an even more catastrophic situation that would be unfavorable to see.
Taking into account these statistics, you must now realize that the coronavirus is not just an ordinary sickness. It is an unprecedented virus with a strain that is unfamiliar to the body’s immune system, so it should be treated as such. In a global *pandemic of this magnitude, even stepping outside of your house for unnecessary reasons is a gamble.
Ignorance cannot be tolerated. It is of utmost importance for every single person on this earth to comply with preventative measures that have been recommended by governments and public health centers. Take responsibility not only for your life, but also the lives of others. Think long and hard before you take a risk that could endanger humanity.
Touching a surface, shaking a hand, hugging a friend - all could result in deaths.
This is not called being dramatic. It’s the harsh reality. It’s the truth that we all must face.
*Pandemic: A pandemic is the “worldwide spread of a new disease,” according to the WHO.
Coronavirus, Social Distancing and Self Quarantine. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-social-distancing-and-self-quarantine
Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Exposures: Geographic Risk and Contacts of Laboratory-confirmed Cases. (2020, March 7). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html
Specktor, B. (2020, March 16). Coronavirus: What is 'flattening the curve,' and will it work? Retrieved March 17, 2020, from LiveScience website: https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-flatten-the-curve.htm
The Extraordinary Decisions Facing Italian Doctors. (2020, March 13). Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/who-gets-hospital-bed/607807/
WHO declares the outbreak of the new coronavirus is a pandemic. (2020, March 11). Retrieved March 17, 2020, from The Verge website: https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/11/21156325/coronavirus-pandemic-who-declares-covid-19-outbreak-global-h1n1
Why Experts Are Urging Social Distancing to Combat Coronavirus Outbreak. (2020, March 13). Retrieved from https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/03/416906/why-experts-are-urging-social-distancing-combat-coronavirus-outbreak