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What does social distancing mean?

A woman is sitting alone reading a book. A tea cup and flowers are nearby.

You can't read or listen to the news right now without hearing the term "social distancing." But what exactly does it mean—and how might it affect you and your family?

Social distancing is a way to keep people from interacting closely or frequently enough to spread an infectious disease—in this case, the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19. For venues like schools, movie theaters and churches, social distancing may require closing. For individuals, it means avoiding large groups of people and trying to stay at least 6 feet away from other individuals.

Why 6 feet? COVID-19 seems to be spread by droplets coughed or sneezed into the air. If you're close to someone coughing or sneezing, you might breathe in the droplets and become infected.

Everybody should start practicing social distancing now to slow the spread of the virus. Here's how you can do it:

  • When you're out in public, stay at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Avoid large gatherings.
  • Cancel or postpone as many social activities as you can.
  • Limit visitors to your home.
  • Limit your movement in the community.
  • Stay connected with family and friends via phone, email, text messaging or social media.
  • Talk face-to-face with friends and loved ones using Skype or FaceTime.

Are you feeling stressed out by the coronavirus situation? Try some of these tips to help relax and cope with all that's happening:

  • Try taking deep breaths, stretching or engaging in activities you enjoy like hobbies or reading.
  • Talk about your experiences and feelings with loved ones and friends, if that's helpful.
  • Do your best to maintain a sense of hope and to stay positive. Consider keeping a journal where you can write down things you are grateful for or that are going well.

You can stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news and recommendations by checking in with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reviewed 4/1/2020

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