- Without social distancing, the infection rate will exceed hospital capacity and available staff and resources.
- COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets that occur after an infected person coughs.
- The incubation period for symptoms to appear is anywhere from 2-14 days.
Governments around the world have canceled all major events, like football games and festivals, as well as religious services, and schools. Many countries have also closed bars, limited restaurant numbers, and have asked all non-essential businesses like clothing stores to close. These containment measures are part of social distancing, to avoid having large groups of people congregating in one place where the virus can easily find hosts.
There are a lot of terms related to COVID-19 that you may not have heard before, you may not understand, and are possibly misusing. Across the world, people are practicing “social distancing” to help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2. To effectively practice social distancing, it is important to know the do’s and don’ts so you can do your part to stop the spread of novel coronavirus. Understanding how social distancing works will help you get through this difficult time by knowing that your sacrifice is saving lives and potentially thousands from getting sick.
What Is Social Distancing And How Can You Practice It?
Social Distancing is the method of disbanding any major organized grouping of people in one place at the same time. That means asking people to work from home, avoid public transportation, canceling school, asking people to only go out for essential items like groceries and medicine, and refraining from attending any kind of group activity be it in a park (like playing soccer), or having coffee at the home of a friend.
When you do have to go out you should wear gloves and stay at least 6 feet away from other people. A common mistake that people are making is are letting their kids go to the play park and crawling all over the play structures. Preliminary tests (non-peer-reviewed) are finding that SARS-CoV-2 can remain stable on various surfaces for hours and days and seem to be most stable in cooler temperatures, therefore, it is not safe to play in playgrounds, instead, go for a walk or bike ride. These measures may seem extreme but they help slow the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the possible number of people the virus can claim as a host.
How Is COVID-19 Transmitted?
Any virus needs to be transmitted from person to person to stay alive and COVID-19 is no different. COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets that occur after an infected person coughs; testing has shown that the virus remains stable for up to 3 hours in the air, 24 hours on cardboard, and 3 days on stainless steel and plastic. If everyone was going about their usual routine, then an infected COVID-19 person could transmit the virus to 2-3 people but when successful social distancing measures are employed, that number drops to 1-2 people. When medical professionals, scientists, and politicians talk about flattening the curve, they are referring to a graph that shows that without social distancing, the infection rate will exceed hospital capacity and available staff and resources. With effective social distancing measures, the virus will spread more slowly within manageable levels for hospitals to effectively deal with infected persons.
Why Is It So Contagious?
There are a few reasons why COVID-19 is so prolific, the first reason is that the incubation period for symptoms to appear is anywhere from 2-14 days. If you unknowingly came into contact with the virus on Tuesday, March, 9th you may not have any symptoms until March 22nd. Consider how much you do in a 2 week period, how many different places you visit, and how many different people you come into contact with; consider if you coughed in the pasta aisle of your grocery store, it could be that easy to transmit the virus to another person. The second reason why novel coronavirus is so contagious is that in addition to having a large incubation period, some people never experience any symptoms or very mild symptoms, and so they carry on, as usual, blindly infecting those around them. Think about any large public place like a school, grocery store, or office building as Grand Central Station for virus transfers. For example, if you are carrying the virus and go to work and infect your coworker, they go home and infect their spouse who then goes to school and infects a teacher; you can see how this becomes impossible to track and impossible to contain.
Social distancing will help slow the infection rate of COVID-19 if the majority employ strict lifestyle changes quickly. However, the most effective way to control the spread of coronavirus is to self-isolate as much as possible, so stay home.