Living with Chronic Pain

What Is Social Distancing?


Social distancing is an intervention that is implemented to help slow the spread of a highly contagious illness. It is often recommended during a pandemic. Social distancing involves increasing the physical distance between people to avoid spreading the illness. This practice is essential during a pandemic to “flatten the curve,” which indicates that disease transmission is no longer increasing. Social distancing involves staying at least six feet away from other people (not living in the same home).

Social distancing recommendations

Social distancing examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Reducing the frequency of large gatherings, limiting the number of attendees per gathering, or canceling gatherings
  • Implementing distance or e-learning instead of in-person education
  • Increasing physical distance between workers at worksites, decreasing social contacts in the workplace, or providing the opportunity to work from home
  • Using electronic communication with friends and family members instead of spending time together in person
  • Limiting the use of public transportation
  • Maintaining at least six feet of space between people in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other public locations

Depending on the severity of the illness and how contagious it is, the length of time social distancing may be required varies. Recommendations can differ from one location to another.

Why is social distancing important during a pandemic?

Practicing social distancing can slow the spread of an illness, which allows critical time to develop treatments or vaccines. It also provides more time for health care facilities to prepare and gather much-needed supplies, such as personal protective equipment, hospital and intensive care beds, and testing supplies.

What is the difference between social distancing and self-quarantine or isolation?

Self-quarantine typically involves staying at home, prohibiting visitors, and staying at least six feet away from others in the household. It is appropriate for people who have been exposed to an illness.

Isolation is often required for people who are confirmed to have a contagious illness and involves keeping people who are infected away from people who are not infected. Isolation can occur at home or in a hospital.

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