(UNDATED) – The United States is in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic and health officials are saying to social distance yourself from others.
Schools and universities are closed, large events are being canceled, government offices are limiting access and stores are selling out of essentials as customers stockpile supplies in preparation for spending lots of time at home.
While stockpiling is not advised, federal health officials are recommending that all Americans practice “social distancing” to lower the odds of person-to-person contact, which could increase the risk of transmitting COVD-19.
But what does that mean?
The White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are now calling on all Americans, even if they’re young and otherwise healthy, to avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people.
The new guidance, issued March 16th, also imploring everyone to do their part of by working (or schooling) from home when possible; using a drive-through, pickup, or delivery options instead of eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and avoiding “discretionary travel,” including shopping trips and social visits.
Organizations serving higher-risk populations, including older adults and people with underlying health conditions, should cancel gatherings of 10 or more people.
In addition to pulling the plug on large gatherings, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have imposed an 8 p.m. curfew on casinos, gyms and movie theaters, while the tristate region’s restaurants and bars may only offer takeout and delivery after that time, reports the New York Times.
Meantime, the CDC also advises self-isolation for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 as well as those who may have been exposed to it.
That’s not the case in harder-hit places like Italy, which has placed its 60 million residents on lockdown in an effort to halt the spread of the disease, according to CNN.
In terms of helping limit the spread of coronavirus, self-quarantine and self-isolation of infected and potentially infected individuals is helpful, but some experts say it may not be enough, and that’s where the concept of social distancing comes into play.
What does “Social Distancing” mean?
According to the CDC, social distancing is defined as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.” Congregate settings include crowded public spaces like shopping centers, movie theaters, and stadiums, according to the CDC.
It’s hard for the average person to know what “social distancing” truly means when it comes to their daily lives – questions around going to work, and the grocery store, arise. But, for the average healthy person, measures don’t necessarily have to be as drastic as never leaving your home.
For the average person, social distancing means not taking nonessential trips and being mindful of how much contact they have with other people, working remotely, and not attending mass gatherings or taking part in activities that might expose them to the virus, according to health experts.
But that is not so for those who are elderly or are immunocompromised.
Local physicians are warning those people to be more stringent in limiting your contact with others – like spending more time at home and limiting contact with others even further.
They warn residents to use “Common Sense” and to be aware of the “Risk Factors.”
“PRACTICE RIGOROUS HAND WASHING, don’t touch your face quite as much, get enough rest and stay hydrated, avoid sharing personal items with others in their household, and clean household surfaces regularly.”
If you are ill, try to confine yourself to one room and sleep alone.
While it’s important to take the coronavirus seriously and take appropriate measures for your own health and the health of others, per the advice of public health officials, it’s also important to avoid panicking and to keep things in perspective.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it’s possible some data will change. WBIW is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and the Lawrence County Health Department as resources.