Practicing Social Distancing

Even with the easing of public health restrictions during Phase Three, all Virginians should be aware that COVID-19 is still spreading in Virginia. In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. The best way to lower your risk is to stay home. This is particularly important for people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 . If you do decide to leave home or have to leave home for work or personal reasons, keep at least six feet between yourself and others. Wear a mask (over both your nose and mouth) when keeping 6 feet apart is difficult, such as in stores or other public places. Wash your hands often, stay home if you are sick, and disinfect high-touch surfaces. These all are very important ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Social distancing (also known as physical distancing) is a way to slow the spread of disease by reducing close contact between people. This means staying out of crowded places and keeping at least six  feet distance from others when possible. Even when staying 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.

Social distancing involves changing your day-to-day routine to reduce close contact with others. These changes will likely be challenging and disrupting. If everyone practices social distancing, it can have a real and important impact to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Slowing the spread can help protect those most at risk for severe disease, reduce the impact on the healthcare system, and “buy some time” for scientists to develop a vaccine and treatment medications.

Remember that social distancing is not social isolation. Safe activities can involve yard work, family game night, going on a walk or other exercise activities, calling or texting a friend or older neighbor, cooking a meal, virtual trivia nights, reading a good book, playing video games, or streaming your favorite show.

Follow these tips for social distancing:

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, or sneezing. 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, utilize online conferencing, email, or phone calls with team members at work. Telework whenever possible. Limit in-person contact when running essential errands. For example, bank online whenever possible. If you must visit the bank, use the drive-thru ATM if one is available.

AVOID grocery shopping during peak hours. INSTEAD, use grocery delivery or curbside pickup options. 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 cloth face covering 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 US.

AVOID sharing items and touching public surfaces, as the COVID-19 virus can stay on surfaces for hours or days INSTEAD, bring your own items and try not to touch public surfaces. 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, doorknobs. Wash your hands often with soap and water.

AVOID large family gatherings that mix relatives from different households, 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.

Choose social distancing options when going out and commuting.

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 cloth face covering. REMEMBER, if you are having any medical emergency, call 911 immediately. Limit in-person visits to the pharmacy. For prescriptions; use drive-thru windows, curbside services (wait in your car until the prescription is ready), 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.

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Page Last Reviewed: October 1, 2020