As the global outbreak of COVID-19 continues to spread across communities in the United States, public health officials continually refer to social distancing, isolation and quarantine. But what exactly are these measures and why might it be important?
What is social distancing, isolation, and quarantine?
Social distancing is simply increasing the physical space between people to help reduce the spread of an infectious disease.[i] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that social distancing for all ages to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 and protect vulnerable individuals.[ii] Social distancing includes avoiding gathering in places like schools, religious services, sporting events, etc.[iii]
Along with regular handwashing and not shaking hands to avoid the spread of disease, it is recommended that people stay at least 6 feet apart from others[iv]. This is because the droplets from a person’s cough or sneeze may contain the virus. If you are too close to an infected person, you may inhale the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing or sneezing has the disease. Maintaining social distancing helps reduce your chances of catching the infection.[v]
Isolation refers to keeping people who are sick with the infection from spreading it to others, while quarantine is for those who may have been exposed to the infection and are at risk for getting sick with an infection.i Though these may seem like excessive actions, it may be one of the best chances to slow the spread of COVID-19.iv
Tips to stay healthy and connected
While these tactics are necessary during this pandemic outbreak, people may experience feelings such as fear, anxiety, depression or loneliness.[vi] To combat these feelings, here are some things to help you stay positive and healthy.
- Create a routine. This may help bring order and purpose to daily tasks. Be sure to include activities such as exercise, eating healthy, meditating and other healthy pastimes.vi
- Stay connected virtually. Phone or video call a friend or family member during this social isolation. Having a conversation and staying connected could help relieve sad or anxious feelings.vi
- Get online. Social media sites can make it easy to reconnect with old friends or make new ones. Research has shown that having a lot of friends in your social network may make you feel more supported and could result in less stress.[vii]
- Learn something new. Find a topic or skill of interest such as painting, baking, building that can be taught by friends and family though video calls.[viii]
- Stay positive. Discuss experiences and feelings with loved ones, keep a daily gratitude journal, and practice mindfulness and relaxation exercises. iii
[i] Coronavirus, Social Distancing and Self Quarantine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-social-distancing-and-self-quarantine. Accessed March 19, 2020.
[ii] Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) — United States, February 12–March 16, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm?s_cid=mm6912e2_w. Accessed March 19, 2020.
[iii] Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health. https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4894.pdf Accessed March 19, 2020.
[iv] To Beat COVID-19, Social Distancing is a Must. https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2020/03/19/to-beat-covid-19-social-distancing-is-a-must/ Accessed March 19, 2020.
[v] Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public Accessed March 19, 2020.
[vi] Keeping Your Distance to Stay Safe. https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/dmhi/research-information/social-distancing Accessed March 19, 2020.
[vii] Facebook Friends with (Health) Benefits? Exploring Social Network Site Use and Perceptions of Social Support, Stress, and Well-Being. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/cyber.2012.0521 Accessed March 19, 2020.
[viii] Maintaining Relationships While Practicing Social Distancing. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/conscious-communication/202003/maintaining-relationships-while-practicing-social-distancing Accessed March 19, 2020.