Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve definitely heard about the new COVID-19 virus that wreaks havoc around the world and you’ve most likely heard terms like “social distancing” and “self-isolation” thrown around.
But what do they actually mean and why is it absolutely crucial we strictly follow them?
While there are some crazy conspiracy theories going around and people thinking it’s just another type of flu or not taking it seriously enough, the truth of the matter remains that we have a world pandemic on our hands.
What matters now is not where and even how it started.
Right now it doesn’t even matter that Bill Gates tried to warn us about this kind of situation five years ago and suggested we should have a good response system to handle an epidemic.
What matters now is that we beat this. And we can only do that by sticking together – from a distance – and acting together as one.
And I don’t mean that as a patriotic slogan that you sing out of habit, but without real conviction. It’s something that we all should really take to heart and internalize under these circumstances. We, as a society, need to acknowledge the situation, understand it completely, and then obey.
Now I know us people are rebels and hate following orders. But right now, it is our duty and civil responsibility. We owe it to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to everyone else in the world.
Social distancing is not something the government came up with to punish us and put us in our place. It’s what our scientists suggest. And they’re doing it to protect us, all of us. It’s not something to be taken lightly or as a mere recommendation. It’s something that we all must do in order to save ourselves!
There’s no “oh, but I needed to go to the bank” or “oh, but I just went out for a run”. Not even “oh, but my knee hurts and I needed to go to the doctor”. Unless you have something absolutely essential to take care of, you have no business being outside the house. And no, it’s not essential to go out to buy a pack of cigarettes or a chocolate, or to pay a bill. If you need chocolate, buy more so you don’t have to go out for another 10 days or more.
If we were at war and we had people with guns waiting outside our house, we would not go out, would we? Why do we not behave the same in these types of situations? The enemy might not be visible right now, but it’s still there waiting to get you, your loved ones, and everyone else you come in contact with.
There are people that need to go to their jobs, like doctors, nurses, truck drivers and supermarket workers. They don’t have a choice. We do. And right now, it’s our duty to lessen their burden.
Let’s all stay at home unless we have to go to work, walk our dog (near our home) and shop for food and essentials once a week or even less often. The less often, the better.
- Why is it important to practice Social Distancing?
- Social Distancing Truly Saves Lives
- So how do we practice social distancing?
- Best Social Distancing Memes
Why is it important to practice Social Distancing?
So why is it so important we stay at home right now and practice social distancing? Well, there are many reasons, but there’s really only two that we need to keep in mind:
- Because we need to protect our elderly and the immunosuppressed, who are the most vulnerable to catching the virus and dying from it, especially if they have underlying diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, or pulmonary diseases.
- Because we need to give our healthcare system a chance to cope with this situation. If too many people get sick at once, hospitals and healthcare professionals will be overwhelmed by the situation, and as a result, many more people will die because there won’t be enough hospital beds and ventilators.
Ok, so how do we accomplish this?
Well, since there isn’t a vaccine for this yet, our only real option is to slow down the spread of the virus, or flatten the curve. The “curve” researchers are talking about refers to the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time.
And we can only accomplish that through social distancing.
Social Distancing Truly Saves Lives
COVID-19 is highly contagious and spreads easily within the community, which is why it is so important to stay at home. Because it’s not just our lives we’re protecting, we’re responsible for other people’s lives as well.
By deciding to stay at home, we not only protect ourselves and our loved ones, but other people as well. We might be infected without knowing and showing symptoms yet, which makes us highly susceptible to spreading the virus to other people, who in turn will give it to others and so on.
It’s called exponential growth and Washington Post have created a simulation to show four types of scenarios: one where we move freely without any restrictions, one where there’s a forced quarantine, and two other scenarios that practice social distancing (one where a quarter of the population is allowed to move and another one where only one in eight people is allowed to move).
As you can see in the image above, the extensive social distancing simulation is the one that showed the best results when it comes to flattening the curve.
Of course, this is just a simulation, but it is a great representation of how exponential growth works and how quickly the virus can get out of hand in these types of situations. It seems slow and under control at first, and then there’s a rapid explosion of new cases all of a sudden. While on day 1 there’s only 1 case, and maybe only a few more within the first week or even month, if there aren’t any restrictions applied, it can then quickly get from 100 to 1,000 basically overnight, and then to a hundred million within the next two months.
As this graph from Business Insider shows, each new infected person spreads the disease to about 2.2 people on average.
And then, if not isolated, those 2.2 newly infected persons spread the disease to the same number of people and that grows exponentially over time. So if you are infected (with or without knowing it) and going about your business as usual, you might be responsible for infecting over 200 people within a month. Here is a video explaining exponential growth in more detail.
But why is this so hard for us to grasp? Well, as Mark Manson points out in his article about Coronavirus risks and biases:
“We all tend to think linearly, not exponentially – Paul Graham had an excellent tweet about this where he said, “People aren’t surprised when I tell them there are 13,000 Covid-19 cases outside China, or when I tell them this number doubles every 3 days. But when I tell them that if growth continues at this rate, we’ll have 1.7 million cases in 3 weeks, they’re astonished.””
Now doesn’t that sound a hell of a lot scarier than social distancing?
And do we even need more simulations and math calculations at this point? We just have to take a look at what’s happening all over the world.
The only difference between Italy and South Korea is how quickly they reacted to the situation and what measures they took. Of course there are many factors to take into consideration – like the age of the population, gender, the percentage of smokers among the ones infected, air pollution in the affected areas, etc. – but the main difference remains that South Korea massively tested the population and applied strict surveillance and isolation measures, whereas Italy was the first in Europe to be majorly hit, were not prepared, and took a long time to apply and obey social isolation measures.
As Prof. Yascha Mounk of Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C. says in this article about why Italy was hit so hard by COVID-19, “I think the question of ‘Why Italy?’ is the most important question and it has a simple answer: No reason at all. The only thing that makes Italy different is that the first couple of [community-transmitted] cases arrived in Italy about 10 days before they arrived in Germany, the United States or Canada. So if other countries aren’t going to react in an extreme way right now, they’re going to become Italy.”
We can definitely learn something from South Korea:
So how do we practice social distancing?
Ok, now that we’ve established social distancing is our moral obligation, how do we actually do this? Well, you should always follow the rules imposed by your country or state officials, but here are some general rules to follow:
- Avoid going out unless completely necessary: to go to work (if you have to), to buy food, medicine, and other essentials, to walk your dog, to offer assistance to family members or other persons in need, or for any other emergency.
- Keep at least a 2m (6 feet) distance from other people wherever you go.
- If you have a mask, wear one. If you know there’s a short supply in your area, leave the masks for medical professionals and sew one yourself. There are plenty of easy tutorials online.
- If you buy food for your parents or other people in need, leave it outside their door for them to pick up after you leave.
- If you have packages or food delivered, pay your order online and avoid contact with the courier. Tell them to leave the package outside and have them call you after they leave.
And wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. I know this has nothing to do with social distancing itself, but it’s the best single thing you can do in addition to it to make sure you stay healthy. That, and disinfecting all contact surfaces like door handles, light switches and your phone. Oh, and stop touching your face. Unless you wash your hands like this guy:
But even then, stop touching your face. Let that become a habit. Prevents pimples as well, not just viruses 🙂
And listen, I know this is hard and it sucks. We’re going through an unprecedented situation and for many of us, it feels like our entire life is put on hold and the entire world is crumbling. But we can get through this as long as we join our efforts and stay compassionate.
Let’s stay strong for our doctors, they need us to stay strong so they can treat us properly when and if we get infected. Let’s not make them have to decide who lives or who dies because there aren’t enough ventilators.
And above all, don’t panic. While we need to stay alert and we have a moral obligation to the people around us, it doesn’t help anyone if we panic. Stress makes the body more vulnerable, so try to stay calm and find ways to relax and take your mind off things. Maybe some memes would help? Somehow, it always seems to help to find the humor in a serious situation.
Best Social Distancing Memes
And if memes don’t help, this definitely will: