Will Social Distancing Stay After COVID-19?

During an epidemic, the first practice of health care is to quarantine patients suspected of disease and those with whom they interact. The term for this process is social distancing, and it helps curtail not only human-to-human transmission but also animal-to-human or environmental contamination.

Social distancing is the practice of separating those who are ill from those who aren’t through methods such as spatial or time barriers. An example of this would be to prevent someone who may have been exposed to contagious disease from entering into a crowded public space where they could infect others.

Social distancing can also limit the contact between individuals and animals or shut down public gatherings, such as churches or schools.

Separating the ill from the Well

Social distancing has become more important than ever during pandemics because it helps prevent the spread of disease. The work that social distancing does is essentially the same as isolation but without actually having to isolate the ill.

One example of spacial distancing would be to prevent someone who may have been exposed to contagious disease from entering into a crowded public space where they could infect others.

For example, when the 1918 flu pandemic hit Philadelphia, schools were shut down in addition to churches and synagogues. The city also recommended that children be kept at home for an additional week when the family’s head of household came down with influenza.

This was probably helpful in preventing disease transmission because children are much more likely to get sick after a parent harboring the flu.

Time Distancing

Time distancing is more about limiting contact than separating those who are ill from those who aren’t. This social distancing would require people to limit or avoid public gatherings, such as churches and schools. It could also refer to closing down public transportation, like railroads and subways.

How Far Should People Be from One Another?

According to the World Health Organization, if you’re trying to keep people from influenza, those who are sick should stay at least one meter away from others, and those who aren’t sick should stay more than one meter away from the ill.

When it comes to respiratory diseases such as SARS or MERS, sick people should stay at least two meters away from others, and those who aren’t sick should be at least three meters away. Additionally, there should be a minimum of six meters between someone who is ill and those who aren’t if they are coming into contact with the sick person’s bodily fluids.

What Not to Do

One common counter-measure during pandemics is for people not to congregate in groups. This makes sense, given that the more people come together, the more likely it is that they’ll spread disease.

This may be a good idea in theory, but in practice, this sort of social distancing can be harmful with regard to public health and safety issues. For example, if you close down schools during a pandemic, children will be out on the streets rather than getting an education.

How Would You Implement This?

One area where social distancing can be particularly effective is in the workplace. If companies allow sick employees to take time off during the pandemic, it reduces non-ill workers’ exposure and gives them distance from their peers, so they aren’t passing around a virus in the office.

However, putting these limitations in place may not be easy, especially for local businesses. If employees are sick, employers might not want to lose them since they’re one of the most important people in their organization.

It’s also not easy for workers who may be coming into contact with others to become aware of their exposure risk or protect themselves. Installing an acrylic barrier for tables or desks is a good way to maintain social distancing in the office.

Will Social Distancing Rules Stay?

One of the biggest things to keep in mind with social distancing is that, at least for now, it’s uncertain how long these limitations should be kept in place. For instance, if you close down schools during an influenza pandemic, but then there’s a new outbreak of measles or chickenpox because it was too late for children to be vaccinated against those diseases. You’re going to have to re-open the schools.

In other words, social distancing could be a temporary measure that helps during a pandemic but has negative effects on public welfare and safety if it isn’t carefully thought out. It’s important to implement social distancing rules properly and carefully to avoid problems.

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