What is social distancing?


Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. To practice social or physical distancing:

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people
  • Do not gather in groups
  • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings

Limit close contact with others outside your household in indoor and outdoor spaces. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay away from others when possible, even if you—or they—have no symptoms. Social distancing policies, especially the stricter restrictions, helped flatten the curve by reducing the rate of case growth to 9 percent over three weeks in place. The daily growth rate without these policies would have been around 16 percent.

Why is social distancing important?

Because COVID-19 spreads from person to person, reducing the ways people come in close contact with each other is essential. Social distancing means staying home as much as possible and avoiding crowded, public places where close contact with others is likely. Social distancing is an essential way to slow down the spread of COVID-19. It is important that you follow the social distancing recommendations in your community, whether you are in one of the high-risk groups or not. With schools closed and people working from home, it may be tempting to get kids together for pl​ay-dates or sleepovers, or to think that gatherings of more than 10 people are safe. But social distancing only works if we all participate. And slowing down or preventing the spread of the virus will save lives.

How do Americans feel about social distancing?

While an increasing share of the public now say the worst of the outbreak is behind us, 80% of Americans say strict shelter-in-place measures are worth it in order to protect people and limit the spread of COVID-19. 19% say the strict shelter-in-place measures are placing unnecessary burdens on people and the economy and causing more harm than good. Majorities also say they can continue following strict social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines for more than another month while less than one in five say they either cannot follow the guidelines at all. Since the outbreak, COVID-19 has drastically changed the way of life in the U.S, many in the country are wondering when, if ever, normal life will return.

When will social distancing end?

When you do decrease social distancing restrictions, by simple biology, you are going to have more cases. The question always becomes, will those cases occur too fast for the healthcare system to absorb? A state, city, or region’s pace of reopening depends on how hard they have been hit by Covid-19 and the level of health resources that equip them to handle surges in cases like ICU bed space, mechanical ventilators, and PPE. Community by community, people are cutting back on social distancing at different speeds. Weekly foot traffic to retail locations is on the rise, hitting 192 million visits across the US, Reuters reports. But activity is still about 40 percent lower than it was this time last year.