What Is Social Distancing And How Does It Help Prevent The Spread Of The Coronavirus
As of today there have been over 175,000 Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases detected around the world. Of these cases, over 6,700 people have died. First identified in China during this past December, it quickly began spreading beyond China’s borders to impact more than 160 countries and territories as of today.
The virus itself is similar to influenza (the flu), in that it primarily spreads via the droplets that an infected person expels when coughing or sneezing. Once exposed to the coronavirus, symptom onset typically occurs around the five day mark, though there have been individuals who have shown symptoms as early as two days later or as late as fourteen days after exposure. Given the spread of the coronavirus so far, this is why organizations like the CDC have presented self-quarantine as a means that individuals who believe they have been exposed to the virus can help prevent its spread. (Here is a document by the CDC discussing risk assessment and management of the virus at this time.)
What Different Countries Have Done To Combat The Spread
Given the global spread of the coronavirus, there have been a range of responses by countries around the world to attempt to curtail its spread. The United States itself has instituted a travel ban on individuals (except for US citizens) coming from most of Europe. A number of countries have instituted lockdowns, like Italy requiring special permission for travel within the country. Other countries have even stopped or restricted entry of travelers from the worst impacted states, such as China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran, though the World Health Organization (WHO) has shown evidence that restrictions of the movement of people during public health emergencies can be ineffective. Some countries have also been cancelling events with large gatherings of people. A recently updated list of events, sports, and entertainment cancelled in the US was created by CBS.
Testing for the virus itself have been another means that has been increasingly drawing attention. South Korea has been perhaps the best at this measure so far, with testing of up to 20,000 people per day since they began cracking down on the spread of the coronavirus. Other countries are attempting to do the same, including the United States, though shortages are resulting in far lower numbers at present. Hopefully as the days progress these numbers will surge and give us a better idea as to where coronavirus cases are concentrated, thereby given us better insight as to where government efforts need to be focused.
All that being said, as we wait for international efforts to continue in impacting the spread of the coronavirus, there are certain things we can do as individuals to help prevent being exposed to the virus.
Social Distancing and How It Can Help
Social distancing is a group of actions that we as individuals can take to help control the spread of the coronavirus infection which, if adopted by enough people, can drastically slow down the rate of new infections. Thus, the main goal of social distancing is to reduce the probability of your contact with someone who is carrying the infection.
As a bit of good news, social distancing should prove to be especially effective in reducing the spread of the coronavirus as the virus appears to be primarily spread through droplet contact (i.e. sneezing or coughing) or direct physical contact (such as shaking hands), though it might become airborne to a lesser degree (researchers are still attempting to pin down the degree of importance for each). That being said, if not enough people take social distancing seriously it can prove to be not as effective. We will get through this outbreak, but if we proactively work together we can get through it faster, with less lives lost.
So what are some of the ways to implement social distancing?
- Instead of greeting others with hugs or handshakes, trying doing an elbow bump (such as when Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders did an elbow bump in their debate).
- Limit non-essential travel as much as you can and get your home ready so that you don’t need to go out. The CDC released a document specifically designed to give some guidance on taking this step.
- Don’t go out to mass gatherings, such as sport events or concerts. With large crowds often pressed in close together, these environments can lead to a spike in the transmission of coronavirus.
- Self-shielding measures, such as limiting face-to-face contact and conducting your business/work online or via phone.
- Most Importantly, Please Take This Outbreak Seriously: For the majority of us, even if we get sick from the Coronavirus we will likely recover. That being said, by taking the measures above and others recommended by organizations like the CDC, we can all help in mitigating exposure of the coronavirus to those most at risk from dying from the virus (elderly and those with serious medical problems especially).