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Why Is “Social Distancing” So Important To Fight Coronavirus?

Apr 4, 2020
coronavirus social distancing

Coronavirus — it’s here, and society as we know it has changed rapidly as we all learn to deal with the effects of this global pandemic.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around about the novel coronavirus (novel = “new”, coronavirus = type of virus). First of all, coronavirus is the shorthand term for SARS-CoV-2, which is the new virus currently affecting the world. COVID-19, on the other hand, is the term used for the disease caused by this virus. It’s all a bit complicated to the average person with all these terms floating around, but one thing is clear: the coronavirus is very serious, and the actions you take today may save lives tomorrow.

Today, we’re answering a few of the more common questions people in our community have about coronavirus/COVID-19, to set the record straight and provide you with solid information that you can rely on.

What is “social distancing?”

Are you still acting like nothing has changed? Are you going to visit friends, have parties, or generally act as though this is all one big vacation… and the coronavirus can only harm “other people?”

If so, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening over the next several weeks. Yes, it’s true that COVID-19 is most deadly to the elderly and those with serious underlying conditions, but it’s already proven fatal even to plenty of otherwise healthy young people, too. Current estimates out of the CDC indicate that COVID-19 is about ten times as deadly as the common flu.

Because this is a “novel” coronavirus, we have no vaccines or proven treatments ready to protect us. This coronavirus happens to be incredibly contagious, which makes things even worse. Thankfully, we do have one big tool at our disposal to fight the virus: social distancing.

Social distancing can be thought of as a self-enforced quarantine where you stay away from everyone except the people you live with for the duration of the most dangerous period of this outbreak. Because the novel coronavirus is so contagious, social distancing is the only way to keep too many people from getting it at once and totally overwhelming our health care system.

I’m healthy and in good shape. Why do I need to do this “social distancing” thing?

If you think you’re too healthy to be in danger from COVID-19, think again. This disease can prove dangerous and fatal to people of all ages, not just the elderly and immunocompromised as initially thought. Not only that, but potentially as many as 1 in 4 coronavirus carriers will be asymptomatic, meaning they won’t even know they have it.

If we all continue to go about our lives, selfishly thinking that the rules don’t apply to us, we will allow this disease to spread and ravage our communities. Our parents, neighbors, friends, and children will become afflicted. Often, when a threat is invisible, it can feel like it’s something that only affects “someone who isn’t me.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth right now: this threat affects us all.

Not only does social distancing lessen your chances of contracting the coronavirus, it has the more important effect of slowing the spread of the virus. Yes, slowing — not stopping. There’s no way to stop the coronavirus now, but we can stretch out the length of time that the outbreak lasts.

You might be thinking: “stretch it out?! I’m already exhausted from this whole thing, why would we want it to last longer?!”

The reason is simple. Our healthcare system is not designed to treat huge numbers of people all at the same time, suddenly surging our hospitals and overwhelming our front-line medical professionals. One estimate suggests that as many as 14% of people infected with coronavirus may require hospitalization. If 50% of the population all contracted the virus at the same time, over 24 million people would suddenly need to be admitted to medical facilities. The United States has approximately 924,000 staffed hospital beds. Imagine the chaos, suffering, and loss of life this would cause.

By staying home — and yes, we know it’s inconvenient, boring, difficult — you are not only protecting yourself and the people you care about, you’re ensuring that we “flatten the curve.” This is a phrase that refers to our ability to lengthen the amount of time the virus is around, but with the effect over never spiking into the red and overloading our fragile healthcare system.

Now more than ever, it’s critical to be a scientifically literate, informed, ethical, and civic-minded citizen of this city, state, and country. Do your part in the fight against the coronavirus. Listen to the authorities, and stay home. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands thoroughly multiple times a day. We’re going to get through this — but only if we all play our part.