The Exchange

Commentary and Observations from
the Medical Front Lines

Social Distancing During COVID-19

Social Distancing During COVID-19

Social distancing is a measure recommended by public health officials that aims to restrict sick people from coming in contact with healthy people to slow the spread of infectious diseases. According to the CDC, social distancing as it applies to COVID-19 includes "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distanceapproximately 6 feet or 2 metersfrom others when possible."

As we have seen recently, the following has occurred in reaction to this recommendation:

  • Schools, colleges, and universities have suspended in-person classes and converted them to online instruction
  • Cancelled sporting events: The NCAA has cancelled the 2020 basketball championships, as well as the 2020 World Series for softball and baseball; the NBA and NHL have suspended seasons; and the 2020 Masters Tournament for golf has been postponed
  • Cancelled festivals, events, parades: The St. Patrick's Day parade in Ireland was cancelled
  • Organizations have cancelled conferences: HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) and NCNP (National Conference for Nurse Practitioners)
  • Closure of museums/landmarks (eg, Smithsonian and the Statue of Liberty), libraries (now sending out information to retrieve books online), and amusement parks (eg, Disney World, Disney Land, Universal Studios)
  • Closure of all shows on Broadway in New York, Cirque du Soleil shows, and some live TV shows (eg, Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel, General Hospital)
  • Medical schools have cancelled Match Day
  • Workplaces are encouraging 14 days of self-isolation if employees traveled out of state or county
  • Mandatory 14-day quarantine if a person has traveled to a country or been on a cruise with any positive COVID-19 cases

According to the CDC, the people who are most at risk are older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions (eg, heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease). So, what else can we do as clinicians to help slow or prevent the spread of the pandemic? First, we can make sure we practice good hygiene habits such as washing our hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. It is also important to use a tissue or sleeve to cover one's hands or fingers when touching elevator buttons, door handles, or handrails; avoid shaking hands or hugging patients during this time; and wear recommended personal protective equipment. Additionally, cleaning and disinfecting computers, desks, exam tables, doorknobs, light switches, and cell phones regularly can help mitigate germ spread. If your office has the capability to use telemedicine to screen and manage patients, this will also be helpful to reduce the influx of patients to your healthcare facilities, ultimately lessening the points of contact between sick and healthy persons.


Filed under: Infectious Diseases, Public Health

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