What You Need to Know About Social Distancing and COVID-19

What You Need to Know About Social Distancing and COVID-19

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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world have been asked—and at times directed by government officials—to practice social distancing. This public health term calls for avoidance of mass gatherings and maintaining a distance of six feet from other people. How can these fairly simple steps limit the spread of the virus? Waleed Javaid, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, explains social distancing and how the practice aids in the fight against COVID-19.

How does social distancing help limit the spread of COVID-19?

If we are standing close together or talking close together in any setting, it’s possible that our respiratory droplets can be transmitted to the person standing or sitting next to us. Since it appears that respiratory droplets are a primary transmission vehicle of COVID-19, that in itself is a risk.

The other phrase we often hear in relation to ‘social distancing’ is ‘flatten the curve.’ What does that mean?

For coronavirus, the curve is going upward. We have doubling of infections every two to four days, which means there is uncontrolled spread in the community. Through effective use of social distancing, we hope to decrease the overall number of people who get the infection, or flatten that upward curve.

To achieve this, it is important that everyone does their part. So, if I am having a party at home, that will not help this situation. Decreasing the number of transmissions will benefit our community and reduce the stress on the health care system.

If you have an essential job and need to use mass transit to get to work, how can you protect yourself?

I have been using mass transit for several days and, right now, it is easy to maintain social distancing because everything is pretty empty. Since policies have been put in place to reduce staff, crowding has been decreased substantially. However, if you have to get into a more crowded bus or subway, make sure to keep your distance, more than two arms distance apart. If you can’t, try turning around to move your face away from crowded situations

Can I take a walk in the park or a bike ride in an uncrowded area?

It’s really great exercise, but as we are all challenged to sacrifice, if it is not vital for our survival, we should stay home and exercise.  We really cannot participate in any activity that increases community risk. We need to think of this from a different angle, not from personal but from the community we live in, which includes the elderly and those who may have a much higher risk of bad outcomes if they get infected.

Are any outdoor activities acceptable while practicing social distancing?

Minimizing all outdoor activities is ideal. Try to do only what is absolutely necessary. This outbreak is like nothing that has been seen before. So, let’s just pause some of our activities. We need to minimize our exposure and think things through. An individual action could have a grave effect on a community.

Health care providers have to come to work because a lot of lives are affected. We have to be in a social situation. We have to do that for everyone’s health. So think, is your activity more important than the community spread of this virus?



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