As COVID-19 continued to spread across the world, it quickly became evident that the public would have to take drastic measures to slow the transmission. In addition to practicing generalized sanitation and good hygiene, people in some of the hardest-hit clusters were advised to take additional, more aggressive measures. Quarantines and travel restrictions were implemented, and the term “social distancing” became a buzzword.
Social distancing involves people keeping a physical distance from each other during disease outbreaks in order to slow transmission rates. Social distancing also is employed to lessen the impact of the disease on the medical care system, which quickly can become overwhelmed with a high number of cases presenting in a short period of time. In best-case scenarios, social distancing also may enable a few people to avoid infection until a vaccine is available.
So how can people socially distance themselves? Here are some of the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other leading health groups.
• Opt out of group events. Steer clear of events, whether meetings, sports games, conferences, and other gatherings where large amounts of people congregate together.
• Stick to non-contact greetings. Avoid hugs, kisses and handshakes. Substitute a smile, a wave or a bumping of elbows, instead.
• Practice remote learning. Students who attend large schools, such as high schools, universities and colleges, can continue their studies via remote learning and virtual classes instead of gathering in classrooms.
• Work from home. Many companies are now equipped to allow employees to work from home all the time or a portion of the time. Businesses can encourage employees to stay home and utilize the internet to get their work done.
• Stagger commute times. Commuters in urban areas can consider staggering work hours so that they help curb crowds on public transportation.
• Alter shopping schedules. Try to visit stores in the early morning or late at night when they are less likely to be crowded.
• Make changes in worship practices. Celebrants may have to make modifications to the way they worship. The Catholic Diocese of Trenton, NJ, recently advised all diocesan churches to halt the distribution of the most precious blood (wine) from communal chalices; encouraged clergy and eucharistic ministers to sanitize their hands before distributing the eucharist; and parishioners to avoid contact during the sign of peace.
Common sense is key to stall disease transmission, and social distancing can be an important public health measure.