What is social distancing and how can it slow the spread of the coronavirus?

There’s a way to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, and it’s something that will involve the whole community. It’s called social distancing.

“Social distancing is essentially changing your behavior so you’ve avoided situations or events where you could spread the virus,” 9Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli said.

Examples of social distancing include:

  • Avoiding crowded places
  • Avoiding restaurants/theaters/concerts & large events
  • Not traveling
  • Maintaining 6-8 feet of distance among people
  • Limiting contact with even small groups 
  • Not touching or having close contact for greeting

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a new recommendation on March, 15th that says for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) should cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.

President Donald Trump on Monday, March 16th, issued guidelines that called for Americans to stay home, avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, and limit discretionary travel.

With social distancing, the spread of COVID-19 can be slowed down so the health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed with patients. A chart that was first published in a scientific journal called the Lancet depicts the different ways a disease like COVID-19 can spread depending on basic changes we can make as a society.

Graph depiction by Dr. Payal Kohli

What the red line shows is how COVID-19 could spread over time without any intervention. Everyone below the red line is infected with the disease, and at its peak, it could negatively impact everything from the healthcare system to the economy. The blue curve represents what could happen if the population practices social distancing. Dr. Kohli explains more in the below video.

Colorado, as of this writing, has not peaked, Kohli said. Instead, it’s at the time right before the bell curve starts to get steeper – meaning the virus could still play out in the community in a different way than if it were allowed to naturally run its course. 

With social distancing, a virus’ spread can be slowed, and at its peak, there won’t nearly be as many cases. Because it doesn’t run its course quite as quickly, its lifespan is longer, but also less severe. We can all do our part right now to “flatten the curve”.

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