The Role of Social Distancing in Preventing COVID-19's Spread

Mar 13, 2020

Healthcare professionals are continuing to urge “social distancing” as a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19.

It doesn’t mean you have to stay home, but specialists say avoiding crowds can make a big difference in slowing the spread of the virus.

Dr. Jennifer Hsu is an infectious disease physician with Sanford Health. She says COVID-19—like all other respiratory illnesses—is typically spread through large droplets.

“If I cough, if I sneeze and I release droplets from my mouth or nose, the virus is attached to those droplets," she explains, "and typically those can spread to other people within about six feet of contact.”

Dr. Hsu says the idea behind social distancing is just that: spreading people out.

“Avoiding mass gatherings, tight spaces where people are more likely to be within that six-feet distance and potentially transmitting respiratory viruses.”

As more and more events cancel and facilities close, Dr. Hsu says we don’t have to wait for someone else to tell us to take precautions. She says everyone has the personal responsibility to protect their loved ones and the more vulnerable people in communities—like the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

“I think it’s really a personal decision and it’s an opportunity for all of us to pitch in and help our community to try to decrease this, even if we’re not told directly that we have to stay home.”

Dr. Hsu says it’s still unclear how much of a role touching an infected surface has on transmitting COVID-19, but she says average household cleaners and soaps are strong enough to remove it.