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What Does Social Distancing Mean?

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As schools have closed and workplaces are encouraging more people to work from home, you may be hearing the term “social distancing” as a way to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Social distancing means keeping at least three feet, and preferably six feet, between you and others. At work, at the grocery store or waiting in line for take-out, keeping a distance from others can prevent you from becoming infected. This is best done by staying at home.

If you are young and healthy and aren’t worried about getting sick yourself, these measures also help stop the spread to others.

“Some people with mild symptoms may feel well enough to leave the house, but they can still be contagious,” said Adam Brady, MD, of Samaritan Infectious Disease. “By staying home and distancing yourself from others, you are reducing your risk of becoming infected. Social distancing can drastically reduce the total spread and help to protect groups of people who are at risk for severe infection.”

Consider this area. About 265,000 people call Benton, Lincoln and Linn counties home. If even one percent becomes critically ill that would represent approximately 2,650 people needing a high level of medical care.

“The disease has been circulating in the mid-Willamette Valley,” said Dr. Brady. “It is now the job of everyone who lives here to keep it from spreading.”

 What Activities Are OK?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), experts suspect that the coronavirus can spread even among people who have no symptoms. So while you might feel fine, you could still be spreading the virus to others as you go out in public or meet with friends.

Any contact you have with others or surfaces you touch that others have touched presents an opportunity for the virus to travel. Limiting your activity helps protect others, so as much as you are able, stay at home with your immediate family.

 If you are otherwise healthy, keeping a distance of three to six feet from others should be enough, but take care to avoid crowded public spaces.

  • Work from home if you can, or talk to your workplace about staggering schedules so there are fewer workers together at one time. Clean your workstation regularly.
  • Small get-togethers with friends or family of less than 10 people are likely fine, but think about the people you are getting together with: do they have small children at home? Are they also taking care of elderly parents? Do they have a chronic condition like asthma, heart disease or diabetes, or are they in treatment for cancer? Even if you are not currently sick the virus can pass through you to them.
  • Check the visitation policies at assisted living and nursing home facilities before you plan a trip.
  • If you are coughing, sneezing, have a fever or otherwise feel sick, stay at home and away from others.

 People at a high risk who should stay home and avoid all contact with others include:

  • People older than 60 years of any health status.
  • People of any age with a chronic condition.
  • People of any age with a compromised immune system.

How Do I Get Supplies From Home?

There are a number of home delivery services that can help you get the things you need and reduce your contact with others, although expect wait times to be longer than normal.

Local retailers are working hard to make sure essential supplies are available. Check your local grocery store for curbside pickup or delivery. Fred Meyer, Safeway, Walmart and Costco offer these services at some locations. Check local store information online.

The Instacart app for your smartphone or online can also help you order groceries and other essentials to be delivered to your home.

“Staying home or keeping a distance from others slows the spread of the virus and helps keep our community member safe,” said Dr. Brady. “It’s not selfish or overreacting to practice social distancing; it’s helping to stop this pandemic.”

Stay up-to-date with information about the coronavirus at samhealth.org/coronavirus.