By now, you’ve heard the advice that to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., we need to practice social distancing. So what exactly is social distancing? We’ve got some answers.

On Monday, the White House announced new guidelines for the next two weeks, urging Americans to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people; to avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, or social visits; and not to go out to restaurants or bars.

This guidance is based on new modeling on how the virus might spread, according to Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force.

“What had the biggest impact in the model is social distancing, small groups, not going in public in large groups,” Birx said at a White House press conference Monday.

Life without its interaction can be trying, but public health experts insist that each person’s commitment to social distancing is key to taming the new coronavirus — and ultimately saving lives.

It’s too late to keep the coronavirus from freely spreading within the U.S. But social distancing can slow it down by giving it fewer opportunities to jump from person to person.

Here’s a closer look at how to do it right.

What is social distancing?

It’s a fancy way of saying you’re avoiding close contact with others.

While it may be alarming to hear that so many sports events, cruises, festivals and other gatherings are being cancelled, there is a public health reason for these measures. These cancellations help stop or slow down the spread of disease allowing the health care system to more readily care for patients over time.

Cancelling events that are likely to draw crowds is an example of social distancing.

Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19.

Other examples of social distancing that allow you to avoid larger crowds or crowded spaces are:

  • Working from home instead of at the office
  • Closing schools or switching to online classes
  • Visiting loved ones by electronic devices instead of in person
  • Cancelling or postponing conferences and large meetings

What is self-quarantine?

People who have been exposed to the new coronavirus and who are at risk for coming down with COVID-19 might practice self-quarantine. Health experts recommend that self-quarantine lasts 14 days. Two weeks provides enough time for them to know whether or not they will become ill and be contagious to other people.

You might be asked to practice self-quarantine if you have recently returned from traveling to a part of the country or the world where COVID-19 is spreading rapidly, or if you have knowingly been exposed to an infected person.

Self-quarantine involves:

  • Using standard hygiene and washing hands frequently
  • Not sharing things like towels and utensils
  • Staying at home
  • Not having visitors
  • Staying at least 6 feet away from other people in your household

Once your quarantine period has ended, if you do not have symptoms, follow your doctor’s instructions on how to return to your normal routine.

Sources contributing to this article are listed below:

Coronavirus, Social Distancing and Self Quarantine
Coronavirus, Social Distancing and Self Quarantine


Coronavirus tips: The dos and don’ts of social distancing
Coronavirus tips: The dos and don’ts of social distancing


Coronavirus: Getting Serious About Social Distancing 1
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Risk Assessment


It's Time To Get Serious About Social Distancing. Here's How
It’s Time To Get Serious About Social Distancing. Here’s How