Your Biggest Social Distancing Questions, Answered

August 11, 2020

Hey Zoom

You know how when you hear a word over and over and over again, it begins to lose all meaning?

That's probably how you feel about the term "social distancing" right now.  

But, despite everyone being tired of hearing (and reading, and talking) about social distancing, no two words better explain what we need to do to curb the spread of COVID-19.  

Social distancing is, perhaps, the most meaningful phrase of 2020. 

One more time for the people in the back: What is social distancing? 

As we're sure you know by now, social distancing describes several precautions that can slow down the spread of COVID-19. These measures include staying home, avoiding crowds, and refraining from touching one another.

Why is social distancing so critical? 

If COVID-19 continues to spread, unchecked by social distancing, there might not be enough hospital beds or respirators for those in need.

According to burgeoning research, coronavirus may be transmitted by carriers who are still healthy. That means everyone must practice social distancing—not just those who are sick. Full compliance will help vulnerable populations, such as older adults and immunocompromised individuals, from getting the virus. 

We know that living like this is undeniably isolating and inconvenient, even if it's for the greater good. To help you keep calm and social distance on that, we answered your most burning social distancing questions:

Can I leave my house during social distancing?

Yes. For sanity's sake, it's okay—and good—to go outdoors to get fresh air and exercise. The point is not to quarantine yourself, but to avoid close contact with others. 

What does "close contact" mean, exactly? Just keep a full six feet away from other people as much as you can.

However, there are a few precautions you should take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. 

When you leave your home, avoid touching your face and wipe down any surfaces you come into contact with. If you're out of your home for an extended period, periodically disinfect your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer. 

And no matter what, practice impeccable hygiene: Wash your hands before you go out, while you're out, and when you get home. 

Can I order takeout while social distancing? 

Yes! Currently, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food—so ordering takeout should be safe. Ordering takeout helps restaurants and delivery drivers earn much-needed income during the pandemic, so don't refrain from treating yourself.

That said, you should still be extremely careful. Disinfect takeout containers upon their delivery, and wash your hands before tucking in.

Is it okay to use public transportation?

Crowded buses and trains, with their oft-touched poles and communal benches, are fertile breeding grounds for germs. To minimize your risk of infection, you should avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

However, if you need to use public transportation to get to work, be sure to carry disinfecting wipes to clean seats and handles, and wash your hands as soon as your commute is over.

Can I go to the grocery store? 

Yes, and doing so is likely unavoidable. However, you should try to be strategic about your shopping trips. Pick a time when the store is least likely to be busy, such early morning or late at night. And—without giving in to the urge to panic buy— purchase as much as you're able to at a time, to minimize your number of trips. 

While shopping, remember that surfaces in the store may be contaminated. If possible, use a disinfecting wipe to clean the handle of your grocery cart—and as always, keep your hands away from your face. When you get home, wash your hands immediately. 

If you buy fruits and veggies, be sure to wash them thoroughly before eating.

Are you over 60, or immunocompromised? You may want to try and avoid shopping trips altogether, if you can help it. Try a grocery delivery service like Instacart instead.

What about going to the doctor?

Unless you have an urgent medical issue, you should probably avoid going into the doctor's office. 

However, you can seek out virtual and telehealth options that don't require an in-person appointment. 

At ZOOM+Care, we're currently asking all patients to start their care by connecting with a provider through Phone or via ChatCare. We will treat what we can remotely, but—if our providers feel it’s medically necessary—can get you scheduled for in-person visit, as well. 

Phone and Chat visits will go a long way in minimizing the risk of exposing yourself or others through in-person contact. 

Can my friends come over?

We know it's difficult, but visitors aren't a great idea right now. This is especially important if you or someone you live with is at high risk, or you live in a communal setting like a nursing home or group home.

Social distancing can be lonely, so it's important to maintain connections during this time. Try getting creative with technology: Schedule dinners parties via Skype, host a movie marathon on Zoom conferencing, or play games with friends online.  

If your mental health is suffering as a result of social distancing, consider consulting with our doctors via ChatCare or booking a Phone visit with one of our Mental Health providers. We can explore your options for treatment and guide you towards the best solution for your mental health.

When I leave the house, do I need to wear a face mask? Will it protect me from getting the virus?

Not necessarily—and unless you're sick or caring for someone who is, you probably shouldn't wear one. 

Masks are effective at capturing droplets, which are the main source of transmission for coronavirus. If you are in close contact with an infected person, a mask may reduce your chances of contracting the disease. If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are showing symptoms, you should make every effort to isolate yourself from others who feel well.

However, masks don't protect healthy people from coming into contact with those germs. Because COVID-19 can live on surfaces for days,  a mask will make little difference if going to the grocery store or taking a bus.  

What's more, face masks are in short supply. We should save them for healthcare providers and people experiencing upper respiratory symptoms.

Do I need to stay six feet away from my spouse—or even my children?

Not unless either of you is showing symptoms of sickness.

Under most circumstances, if you and your loved ones are living in the same home, you don't need to stay six feet away from them. (And let's be real: doing so would be virtually impossible.) However, limit excessive physical contact as much as possible.

We’re practicing social distancing, too. If you or a loved one needs care during this turbulent time, please connect with us via Phone or via ChatCare before coming into a clinic. We appreciate your understanding as we all do our part to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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