Practicing Physical Distancing

What does physical distancing mean?

COVID-19 is still spreading in Virginia. Physical distancing (also known as social distancing) is a way to slow the spread of disease by reducing close contact between people. In general, the closer you are to other people and the more time you spend with those people, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. The best way to lower your risk is to stay home as much as possible. This is most important for people at higher risk of severe COVID-19. Physical distancing can also reduce the impact on the healthcare system. Physical distancing is most effective when practiced in combination with other prevention measures, such as mask wearing, hand washing and getting vaccinated.

Tips for physical distancing

If you leave home for work, medical or personal reasons, keep at least six feet between yourself and others. Not everyone with the virus may have symptoms or know that they have COVID-19. Try to stay out of crowded places. Even when staying at least six feet apart, try to limit the amount of time you are in contact with people you do not live with. A quick trip to the grocery store for a few essential items is less risky than spending several hours at a party, even if you stay six feet away from others at the party. Outdoor gatherings are safer than those held indoors. 

Limit in-person visits to the pharmacy. Use drive-thru windows, curbside services, mail-order, or other delivery services. Do the same for pet medicine. Check with your doctor and pharmacist to see if you can get a larger supply of your medicines so you do not have to visit the pharmacy as often.

Wear a mask (also known as cloth face covering) over both your nose and mouth in your home if someone in the home has COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19. If possible, keep at least six feet between yourself and someone in your home who has COVID-19. Provide a separate bedroom and bathroom for this person, if possible. Wash your hands often and clean high-touch surfaces with soap or detergent. 

All people aged 5 and older must cover their mouth and nose with a mask when they are outdoors, as recommended by CDC. While it is generally safe for fully vaccinated people to be outdoors without a mask, CDC continues to recommend that everyone wear a mask in crowded places where physical distancing cannot be maintained and in indoor public settings. 

Fully vaccinated people can have small gatherings indoors with other fully vaccinated people, without wearing a mask or physical distancing.

See here for more information about activities that fully vaccinated people can take part in.

Stay home if you feel sick.

AVOID dirty hands. INSTEAD, clean hands often. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or removing your mask. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together for at least 30 seconds until dry.

AVOID handshakes, hugs, and kisses. INSTEAD, try a wave, nod, or bow.

AVOID in-person meetings and close contact. INSTEAD, use online conferencing, email, or phone calls with coworkers. Telework when possible. Limit in-person contact when running essential errands. For example, bank online whenever possible. If you must visit the bank, use a drive-through or walk-up ATM if available.

AVOID grocery shopping during peak hours. INSTEAD, use grocery delivery or curbside pickup.  If you need to go to the grocery store, pick a time when the store is less crowded (for example, early morning or late night). Stay at least six feet away from other shoppers in the aisles or check-out line and wear a mask that fully covers both your nose and mouth. Use disinfecting wipes to clean cart handles and refrigerator doors. At home, follow food safety guidelines: clean, separate, cook, chill. There is no evidence that food or food packaging play a major role in spreading the virus in the United States.

AVOID sharing items and touching public surfaces, as the COVID-19 virus can stay on surfaces for hours or days, depending on the type of surface. INSTEAD, bring your own items.   Avoid using shared items such as pens to sign receipts. Use a credit or debit card instead of cash to reduce passing items back and forth. When getting gasoline, use gloves or disinfecting wipes on handles or buttons before you touch them. Think about avoiding other frequently touched surfaces in public. This includes playgrounds, railings, and doorknobs. Wash your hands often!

Choose physical distancing options when going out and commuting.

AVOID family gatherings that mix relatives from different homes, especially if some people are at increased risk for serious illness. We tend to think that people we are related to and love can’t give us COVID-19, but a number of COVID-19 outbreaks have been traced to family gatherings that included people who don’t live together. INSTEAD, stay in touch by calling, texting, or video chatting.  

For people who are fully vaccinated, there are situations where you may gather with others. See here for more information.

AVOID delaying medical care. INSTEAD, call your healthcare provider first. They may be offering options for telemedicine and may be taking extra steps to keep their office safe; like requiring everyone to wear a mask. REMEMBER, if you are having any medical emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Don’t let physical distancing lead to social isolation

Safe activities can involve yard work, family game night with those you live with, going on a walk or other exercise, calling or texting a friend or older neighbor, hosting an on-line happy hour, visiting with a friend from the yard or sidewalk while they stay on the porch, writing a letter, virtual trivia nights, joining an online book club discussion group, attending online worship services, playing video games, or watching your favorite show and comparing notes with your friends afterwards. Look for creative ways to connect to loved ones as we try to keep others safe until COVID-19 has passed.

Physical distancing and Executive Order 72

For individuals who go out to social settings, such as restaurants and breweries, it is important to note that as per the new Executive Order 72 physical distancing must be observed at these settings. That is, there must be at least six feet between parties, including the bar area. Tables at which dining parties are seated must be six feet apart from other tables. People visiting these places must also wear masks, except when eating or drinking.

If you are fully vaccinated you may dine outdoors with friends without wearing a mask. You should however wear a mask when dining indoors at an indoor restaurant or bar (when you are not eating or drinking).

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Page Last Updated: May 7, 2021