Social Distancing: what it means and why doctors say it’s important

Local Coronavirus Coverage

TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) When looking at the percentage of Americans who have contracted COVID-19, the number is relatively small. But, experts are saying we need to take serious steps right now to keep it that way, and avoid a true and possibly catastrophic outbreak of the coronavirus.

“Social Distancing” is a concept suggested by agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and prevention for weeks, but what does that mean? And why is it important?

“It is thought to be the way to slow this virus down best. Social distancing. Avoid large groups of people,” says Dr. Ned Legare, with MDVIP.

Over the past week, the U.S. has seen a rapid increase of cancelled sporting events, social gatherings and community events. Schools across the country and the region are closing their doors for weeks.

“Many of our efforts are focused on preparing our communities for the situation and equipping our schools for anything they may need,” says Dr. James Lane, Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.

With events cancelled or postponed, how can you continue to practice social distancing in your daily life?

The CDC has recommended avoiding any gathering with crowds larger than 50 people. The White House also announced guidelines suggesting people avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.

“When you’re able to limit the spread to a large group of people at the same time what it does is reduces the number of people presenting to the healthcare system for serious and urgent care at the same time,” says Dr. Legare.

Doctors believe COVID-19 has a potential to overwhelm our healthcare system, if there is a huge spike in cases.

“We have a limited capacity in our county, a limited capacity in every country, to care for the seriously ill and if we can slow the virus down we can better take care of the sick among us,” says Dr. Legare.

Social distancing is what doctors say prevents that surge in illness, and protects our most vulnerable populations, like anyone over 60 years old.

So what can you do?

The CDC and other organizations nation-wide suggest you avoid mass gatherings of people, keep 6 feet away from others when possible, avoid hugs and handshakes in public, eat at home or utilize take-out services from local restaurants, and try to stay connected with friends and family online when possible.

“We will do everything we can to make sure we safeguard the health and well-being of the American people,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Doctors are also reminding the public of what to look out for:

“What we are worried about is a temperature of 100.4 or more, difficulty breathing and a bad cough,” says Dr. Legare.

Because the virus can be spread from people who are not showing any symptoms, doctors say these precautions of social distancing are important because it is better to be safe than sorry.

Find our ongoing coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic here.

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