To slow the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), health officials have urged the public to practice social distancing.

The Centers for Disease Control defines social distancing as avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible. The CDC also recommends remaining out of congregate settings or crowded public places where close contact with others may occur, such as shopping centers, movie theaters or stadiums.

Tips for practicing social distancing:

  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging, high-fiving or otherwise greeting with contact. Instead, use a wave or nod.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Contact your employer regarding work-from-home policies.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid medical facilities, long-term care facilities or nursing homes unless you have a medical reason for being there.

How does social distancing help?

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets, which can be expelled from people through coughing, sneezing or talking. Once the virus lands on a surface, it can survive for some time and potentially infect anyone who touches that surface before touching his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

Temporary closures at places where people gather — such as schools, community centers and workplaces — allow for social distancing to happen. Closing these places means people cannot gather, which creates necessary space between people. The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to limit social interactions as much as possible.

Do healthy people need to practice social distancing?

People are thought to be most contagious when they are showing symptoms. Many people, including children, with COVID-19 may show only mild symptoms. Some spread, however, might be possible before people show symptoms. In these cases, they can still pass this virus onto others who may be at higher risk, including older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions.

What can I do while practicing social distancing?

The California governor’s March 19 order instructs all California residents to stay at home, except for critical infrastructure work or essential activities like going to the grocery store, pharmacy or bank. Read the full order here.

During this time, you can help protect your family from transmission through washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces often. Avoid touching your face with your hands and teach your children how to properly cough and sneeze into their elbow or a tissue.

At home, surround yourself with relaxing colors, sounds and scents. You can use this time of solidarity to do something you enjoy and be creative.

It’s still a good idea to exercise and get fresh air during this time. It is important though, to maintain safe distances, ideally 6 feet, while doing so. If possible, stay in a closed yard.

Here’s a CHOC psychologist’s tips for establishing structure and routine for kids during this time. And here’s a list of activity ideas for kids during COVID-19.

Maintaining social connections

People may experience anxiety related to the disruption of their normal routine caused by COVID-19 and social distancing. Continue to reach out to friends and family using methods such as the phone, video chat, email and text.

When can I stop practicing social distancing?

The governor’s March 19 stay at home order is in effect until further notice.

This article was last updated on March 25, 2020.

Learn more about coronavirus (COVID-19)

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