Social distancing is the idea of actively avoiding crowds to slow the spread of illness. Specifically, the CDC asks us to cancel any activity of more than 50 people and only hold a gathering of smaller size if you can ensure hand hygiene practices and that people keep at least 6 feet away from others. They want us to do this for at least the next 8 weeks.
The CDC is asking you – yup, you (and me too!) – to stay away from folks. We realize that is easier said than done, and still likely leaves some questions.
I’m young and don’t have any risk factors. Can I continue to socialize?
Please don’t. If you ignore the guidance on social distancing, you will essentially put yourself and everyone else at much higher risk.
You still have a risk from Coronavirus, even as a young person.
Plus the community needs your help in slowing the virus. People who show only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all can pass the virus to many, many others before they even realize they are sick. So you could infect your older or high-risk loved ones or community members with chronic illness, as well as contribute to the number of overall people infected, causing the pandemic to grow rapidly and overwhelm the healthcare system.
We know social distancing is tough, especially for college students who are used to gathering in groups. But even cutting down the number of gatherings, and the number of people in any group, will help.
Can I leave my house?
It’s O.K. to go outdoors for fresh air and exercise — to walk your dog, go for a hike or ride your bicycle, for example. The goal is not to remain indoors, but to avoid being close to people.
You may need to leave the house – for medicines or other essential resources.
There are things you can do to keep yourself and others safe during and after these excursions.
When you do leave home:
- Wipe down any surfaces you come into contact with
- Disinfect your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer and avoid touching your face.
- Frequently wash your hands — especially whenever you come in from outside, before you eat or before you’re in contact with the very old or very young.
Can I go to the supermarket?
Yes. Stock up to minimize the number of trips, and pick a time when the store is least likely to be crowded.
When you do go, remember that any surface inside the store may be contaminated. Use a disinfecting wipe to clean the handle of the grocery cart, for example.
Wearing gloves is not as effective as washing your hands.
Put your phone somewhere in accessible so that you don’t absent-mindedly reach for it while shopping to avoid getting more germs on your phone.
Put hand sanitizer in your vehicle and sanitize when you leave the store.
When you get home, wash your hands right away. Re-wash after putting away your items.
Those at high risk may want to avoid the store if they can help it, especially if they live in densely populated areas. Ask for someone at lower risk to help you by picking up groceries when they go to the store.
Can I go out to dinner at a restaurant?
Some places have closed down restaurants and bars for the next few weeks, but if you’re not in one of those places, there are not rules about this yet.
In general, avoid going out to restaurants.
If you’re going to go – choose somewhere that has a lot of space and staff you trust who likely practice good hygiene.
Better yet, opt for takeout.
If you’re concerned for the restaurant’s financial future, purchase a gift certificate that you can redeem later.
Can family and friends come to visit?
That depends on how healthy they are.
People who are sick or returning from recent travel should not visit. If you have vulnerable people in your home, limit visitors.
But if everyone in your home is young and healthy, then some careful interaction in small groups is probably OK. The smaller the gathering of healthy people, the lower the risk will be.
Keep checking in with loved ones by phone or plan activities to do with them on video.
Can I play sports or yard games with friends?
We do encourage you to keep active during this time. Bike rides, hikes, walks, outdoor workouts on your own or with only the people who live in the same home as you are all encouraged.
Playing sports or yard games adds risk. You can minimize that risk by:
- Ensuring that everyone who plans to play is young and healthy
- There will be less than 10 people
- Avoid high fives and huddles
- Wipe down any shared objects (balls, discs, bats) during breaks
- Have hand sanitizer nearby for everyone’s use
- Wash your hands immediately afterwards
As of this writing, Campus Rec facilities are open with limited hours. Remember to stay 6 feet away from other people as best you can, wipe down equipment after use, avoid high traffic times and wash your hands afterwards.
I’m worried about isolation. What can I do to make this easier?
Staying in touch with family and friends is more important than ever – just use technology instead of face-to-face interactions. Even imagining a warm embrace from a loved one can calm the body’s fight-or-flight response.
For more tips, see Managing Mental Health During Coronavirus. You can also call CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658 for mental health support.
How long will we need to practice social distancing?
We don’t know and it depends on how well we collectively succeed at social distancing now. Again, current CDC guidelines ask us to do this for 8 weeks.
Social distancing will help “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 outbreak, thus keeping the number of cases at a level that health care providers can manage and ensuring better care for any infected people. By complying with social distancing guidelines, college students — as well as the rest of the population — can do their part in slowing the spread of the pandemic.
For more details:
Updated 3/17 to reflect clearer guidance on physical activity and restaurant visits