COVID-19: Social Distancing Q&A

COVID-19: Social Distancing Q&A

Learn more about social distancing and actions you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community from COVID-19

Summary:

  • Social distancing means practicing certain social behaviors that may lower your risk of catching COVID-19, slow the spread of disease, and protect vulnerable members of your community.
  • You can practice social distancing by keeping a distance of about six feet between you and other people, following public health guidelines for the size of group events, and avoiding people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home, isolate yourself from other members of your household, and call your healthcare provider.

We have all heard the term “social distancing,” but what is it, how does it help to control the spread of disease, and how will it impact individuals, families, and communities? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about social distancing.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing means practicing certain behaviors that can lower your risk of catching COVID-19. These behaviors include keeping a distance of about six feet between you and other people, following public health guidelines for the size of group events, and avoiding people who are sick. These behaviors may reduce possible spread of COVID-19 when practiced along with everyday healthy habits such as covering coughs and sneezes, frequent hand washing, and wearing a mask.

How does social distancing help?

In addition to protecting yourself, social distancing can limit or slow the spread of COVID-19 in your community, which may reduce the strain on healthcare resources and protect people at high risk of developing complications related to the disease.

Related article: Safety tips for people at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 

How do I practice social distancing at home? 

Take everyday precautions to prevent the spread of disease: frequently wash your hands; don’t share food or drinks; wipe down often-touched surfaces with disinfectant wipes; and avoid close contact with anyone in your household who is sick. The CDC defines close contact as being within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

If your household includes someone at high risk of developing complications related to COVID-19, such as an older adult or someone with a health condition that affects their heart, lungs, or immune system, healthy household members should still practice social distancing. If possible, the vulnerable household member should have a protected space in the house.

How do I practice social distancing at work?

Although many people are now working from home, essential employees in certain industries still have to report to their jobs. These employees can still practice social distancing at work.

Healthy employees should avoid personal contact, such as shaking hands, in-person meetings, and office luncheons or parties. Videoconferencing, email, and other telecommuting tools should be used instead. Contact between healthy employees and the public should also be minimized.

Employees who are required to report to work should self-monitor their health and stay home if they develop symptoms of a respiratory illness, such as cough, fever, or shortness of breath/difficulty breathing. Employees who appear to be sick at work should be separated from other employees immediately and sent home.

How do I practice social distancing in public places?

When you go out, such as to get groceries or to visit the doctor’s office, be sure to practice social distancing and avoid personal contact with non-household members, such as greeting someone by shaking hands. Most businesses have signs and marketing on the floor to help everyone maintain at least six feet space between each other. To avoid crowds, you can also aim to do essential errands during less busy times, such as early in the morning.

Follow public health guidelines for the size of group events:

  • For information regarding group gathering guidelines in Connecticut, visit gov/coronavirus or call 211.
  • For information regarding group gatherings in New York, visit health.ny.gov or call 1-888-364-3065.

It’s also critical to practice good hand hygiene during and after your outing. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds at a time. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose, and mouth) with your hands.

Related article: How to safely get the health care you need during the COVID-19 pandemic

How do I practice social distancing with kids?

Social distancing can be challenging for kids and parents — especially when school and activities may get canceled or transitioned to remote from home participation. However, kids should follow the same social distancing recommendations as adults, keeping six feet of space between themselves and other kids who do not live in their household. While it’s hard to do, at this time, limiting playdates, sleepovers, and birthday parties with non-household members can help to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

How do I practice social distancing with extended family members? 

Although it can be difficult to be isolated from extended family members, it’s important to follow social distancing recommendations. Avoid hosting or attending family gatherings, such as birthday parties or family meals, with non-household members.

If you must visit family members, minimize the duration and frequency of visits. Consider staying outside if the weather permits. Outdoor activities carry less risk of spreading COVID-19 than indoor activities. Also, make sure you are healthy, take care to maintain personal space, and practice good hand hygiene.

What activities are safe? 

Going outdoors for a walk or hike is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise. Kids can play in their own yards at home. If the weather isn’t great for outdoor activities, consider exercising at home by following an online video. Board games, reading a good book, puzzles, movies, cooking a meal, and baking are also ways to pass the time.

Lastly, be sure to stay in touch with friends, neighbors, and loved ones using phone, video, and social media. Staying connected to others will help us get through this together.

Nuvance Health is keeping the communities informed on our website at nuvancehealth.org/coronavirus, and on social media @NuvanceHealth, or search for your hospital’s name.