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What Does Social Distancing Mean?

This Is What Social Distancing Means and Why It's Imperative During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Social distancing and quarantining have been used interchangeably as people discuss the coronavirus pandemic, but in fact, they don't mean the same thing. The latter is advised for those who have COVID-19 or who believe they are exhibiting symptoms of the virus, while the former is a safety measure medical experts and government officials recommend people follow to slow the spread of COVID-19.

What Is Social Distancing?

"Social distancing means keeping keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home," the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains on its website. To practice social distancing, the CDC advises avoiding gathering in groups, staying out of crowded places, and staying at least six feet (two meters) away from others if you must leave your home. "Keeping space between you and others is one of the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to this virus and slowing its spread locally and across the country and the world," the CDC explains.

Why Social Distancing Is Important

Although you may be feeling healthy and not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, such as shortness of breath or a fever, it's still extremely important to practice social distancing. It's possible to be infected with the virus without exhibiting any symptoms, which means that if you look or feel healthy and decide to hang out with your friends or spend time in public spaces, you can potentially spread the virus to more people, including those who are at greater risk of catching the virus and having medical complications.

Additionally, research has found that the virus spreads when you are in close proximity to other people for a long period of time. (Trust us, now is a great time to take a rain check on that date you had planned!) COVID-19 is spread when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes and the tiny droplets that leave their nose or mouth are projected into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. It's also possible to contract the virus by touching surfaces the virus lives on, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, although the CDC reports that this is not the primary way the virus spreads.

The Dos and Don'ts of Social Distancing

Because of this, it's advised that everyone follow social-distancing etiquette. Currently, the CDC recommends that everyone — regardless of age or health status — avoid all large and small gatherings in both public and private places. This means avoiding parties, weddings, group sports, casual hangouts, and more. When it comes to work, you should discuss your work-from-home options with your employer. If you are a student or have a student in your household, be sure to communicate with the school about digital learning for the foreseeable future.

It's also advised to avoid using public transportation, but if you must, be sure to maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and others. If you have to go out for essential items like groceries, be sure to maintain a six-foot distance from others and cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover. Each state may have specific safety measures in place, so we recommend familiarizing yourself with your state's COVID-19 guidelines.

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.

Image Source: Getty / Westend61
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