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What is social distancing and how do I do it?


It’s a tricky time right now, as we all try to navigate coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Events are being cancelled, schools are closing, and we are hearing requests for social distancing. You may have asked yourself, “What is social distancing, and how do I comply?”

“We all want to do what’s best to keep ourselves and others safe, and there have been recommendations from the government, health care providers and public health partners around social distancing, but what that actually means isn’t always clear,” said Aarikha D’Souza, Arizona community division regional infection prevention director at Banner Health.

What is social distancing?

The spread of COVID-19 from person to person happens through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To slow the spread of COVID-19 from person to person, social distancing is being recommended, which means staying out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet away from others, according to the CDC.

“If you are too close to someone when they sneeze or cough, you may breathe in their respiratory droplets, including COVID-19 if the person coughing has the disease,” said Ms. D’Souza.

How do I practice social distancing?

The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America recommend avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people. For individuals who fall in the high-risk category — those who are 60 years and older and or those with chronic medical conditions — the guidelines urge to stay home and away from others. Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others.

Ms. D’Souza also recommends taking these steps to move towards successful social distancing practices:

• Work from home, if you are able. If teleworking isn’t an option, wash your hands often, avoid touching your nose and mouth, and clean and disinfect your immediate workspace regularly.

• Consider keeping your children home from school or daycare, if possible. Many schools and daycare facilities have already closed temporarily to help stop the spread of the COVID-19.

• Put child play dates with other children on hold. Instead, keep kids active by encouraging walks in the park, taking a pet for a walk, bike rides, hikes, obstacle courses, playing music, dance videos and outdoor physical workouts. Playgrounds and play structures, that may not be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as needed, can harbor germs for extended periods of time and should be avoided.

• Stay away from sick individuals. If you are providing care for someone who is sick, make sure to wear a mask and perform good hand hygiene.

• Do not shake hands or hug others. Instead of elbow bumps, consider no-touch greetings — waving from a distance or nodding with eye contact.

• Avoid eating in bars, restaurants, and food courts. Alternatively, use drive-thru, pickup, delivery options.

• Hold off on social visits with others. Utilize technology such as FaceTime, Skype and other free video chatting apps to encourage online social interactions.

• Limit shopping trips to only essential grocery and pharmacy items. When entering the store, be sure to use the provided disinfectant wipes and if those are not available, hand sanitizer is a good substitute.

• Avoid visitation to nursing homes, retirement or long-term care facilities unless vital assistance is needed.

“The above recommendations are important steps otherwise healthy people can take to try and stay healthy and slow the spread of COVID-19. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Ms. D’Souza. “If you have even the slightest symptoms of illness — coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever — it is highly recommended that you keep your distance from everyone, including family members, and isolate yourself until you feel well again.”

For more information on COVID-19 and the importance of social distancing during this time, visit bannerhealth.com.

Melissa Fink is a contributing writer for Banner Health.