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Why is Social Distancing Important?


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Social distancing is an important public health intervention that is being used to reduce the spread of contagious diseases. The term means keeping space between yourself and others. To practice social distancing, it is recommended that one must keep a minimal physical distance of 6 feet from other people. Because the COVID-19 outbreak has spread so rapidly and has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), it is important to utilize any tools we have to slow down the spread of this virus. Along with regular hand washing, the use of sanitizer, and wearing face masks, avoiding close contact through social distancing is one 0f the best ways to limit infections.  

Social distancing, also known as “physical distancing,” is the keeping of safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household, in both indoor and outdoor spaces. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), viruses are able to spread among people when you are in close contact with an infected person for a prolonged period. Droplets that contain the virus are launched into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets land in the mouths or noses of others nearby, and can also be inhaled into the lungs. Considering that people can be infected with a virus without showing any symptoms, an infected person may unknowingly infect others.

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Worldwide, mass gatherings such as sporting events, concerts, and religious gatherings have been postponed or canceled to accommodate social distancing. People have foregone going to work, or to the gym, and are encouraged to work from home while schools have closed and been replaced with online learning. Social distancing practices encourage people to use online phone and video communication platforms instead of in-person contact. These efforts to encourage social distancing comes down to the fact that limiting opportunities to come into contact with infected people can slow down the spread of the virus. 

Infections can also occur by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Depending on factors such as sunlight and what type of surface it is, viruses can live for days on a surface. Social distancing thus helps to limit coming into contact with contaminated surfaces. 

As social distancing can help slow down infection rate, it is an important tool in “flattening the curve”, which essentially refers to reducing the projected number of infected people needing healthcare over time. Flattening the curve helps to alleviate or prevent overbearing stress on healthcare services.

The CDC outlines that the elderly and those who have severe underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart or lung disease, are at higher risk for developing complications from a COVID-19 infection. While not everyone faces the risk of severe illness, it can affect anyone. By staying home as much as possible, practicing social distancing, and taking other precautionary measures you can play your role in slowing the spread and protecting yourself, your family and your community.

Health Biology