COVID-19 FAQs: What is social distancing?

6-foot rule, isolation, quarantine: different ways to protect yourself & others

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

The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines has many events and venues opening up. However, the pandemic is not over, and everyone needs to continue to do their part to stop the spread.

You should continue to follow personal hygiene advice: Wear a mask, 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

Public health history lesson: How social distancing beat typhus in the Warsaw Ghetto

What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Consider isolation and quarantine as part of a spectrum of restricted movement. If physical or social distancing is on one end of the spectrum, quarantine is in the middle, and isolation is on the other end. All three help to protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease, the CDC says. 
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. In the case of COVID-19, this should last at least 14 days from exposure and can include other members of your household.

  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. With COVID-19, this should last at least 10 days from your first symptoms or positive test result, separate from others in your household.

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 phone calls, social media, video chats or any other digital platforms.

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

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.

This story was originally published on March 14, 2020. It was last updated April 5, 2021, with vaccine information and face mask recommendations.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Frequently Asked Questions, Healthy Living

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