COVID-19 FAQs: What is social distancing?

Efforts now can 'flatten the curve' and help everyone around you stay healthy

Social distancing: Woman works from home sitting on exercise ball at her desk faces a computer screen and large windows.

The coronavirus pandemic is prompting sports and large event cancellations in communities Sanford Health serves.

Why cancel everything? When a new disease spreads where there’s no immunity to it, infectious disease experts recommend social distancing.

“Currently a vaccine or drug is not available for COVID-19,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Community-based interventions such as school dismissals, event cancellations, social distancing, and creating employee plans to work remotely can help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

You should continue to use personal hygiene advice: Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, refrain from shaking other people’s hands, avoid touching your face, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home when you’re sick. Here are additional steps you can take.

What is social distancing?

According to the CDC, social distancing is:

  • Working or schooling from home whenever possible
  • Remaining out of places where groups of people congregate, such as bars, restaurants, food courts and gyms
  • Avoiding social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people
  • Maintaining distance — at least 6 feet — from others when possible

History lesson: How social distancing beat typhus in the Warsaw Ghetto

What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease, the CDC says.

  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. 
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.
Why are events being canceled?

Public health officials at the CDC and World Health Organization recommend these measures to reduce the number of infections and slow the rate of the epidemic.

Such social distancing reduces the rush of patients at clinics and hospitals — known as “flattening the curve.” It also helps scientists buy time to develop treatments and vaccines.

How can we stay connected during social distancing?

Short-term, isolation can be the healthier choice, to prevent the spread of infection. But, “over time, human beings need to be interconnected,” said Sanford Health licensed psychologist Jon Ulven, Ph.D.

He suggests that people plan to maintain contact with others via mobile devices, Skype, FaceTime, or any other digital platforms.

“Discuss the plan for staying in touch,” he said.

For example, workplaces might offer working from home, holding virtual meetings and instant messaging. Colleges and universities have adopted distance learning while their campuses are closed. Places of worship and community organizations may broadcast video or audio of their services and events.

Meanwhile, the CDC recommends keeping tabs on vulnerable people such as older adults. Find ways to help, such as checking on them to make sure they’re getting meals and other essentials.

Learn more

Posted In Coronavirus, Frequently Asked Questions, Healthy Living

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