The Athens Mayor and Commission passed a shelter-in-place ordinance on March 19, which prohibits all gatherings outside of a household and any nonessential travel in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Definitions of the terms “shelter-in-place,” “essential” and “nonessential” can become a lot of information to remember, especially when terms such as “quarantine,” “isolation” and “social distancing” are thrown into the mix. The Red & Black has broken these terms down for you.
“Social distancing” is the deliberate increase of physical space between people to avoid spreading illness, according to The Red Cross. You may be thinking: What does social distancing look like in public? If a person is sick, do they still social distance in the same way as healthy people?
“The best thing people can do to stop the spread [of COVID-19] is social distance,” said Grace Bagwell Adams, an associate professor in the University of Georgia College of Public Health who specializes in health policy.
When considering social distancing and its role in limiting the spread of COVID-19, it’s important to know the rules and specifications that go along with the practice. To better explain how you can stay healthy when in public and at home, The Red & Black spoke with Adams about the do’s and don’ts of social distancing.
DO: Know the meanings behind specific terminology
There’s a lot of confusion between different terms used when speaking about the pandemic, Adams said. It’s important to know which activity fits best with your needs.
“Shelter in place” is the broad suggestion that everyone stays at home as much as possible, Adams said. Athens-Clarke County is under a 24-hour shelter in place policy until April 7, meaning that you should only travel on essential business, such as getting food or caring for the elderly or family in other households. This applies to both healthy and symptomatic people.
Meanwhile, “social distancing” refers to keeping a safe space between yourself and other people to limit the spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. If you have to go out in public or be around others, staying 6 feet away from people and not shaking hands are two ways you can limit contact with other people. Maintaining a healthy social distance is especially important while at the workplace, at the grocery store and when waiting in line for prescriptions, Adams said.
Quarantining is the separation of people who may have been exposed to the virus from the public, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This involves staying at home at all times unless you are on essential business.
If you come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you should quarantine for at least two weeks — the time it takes for symptoms of COVID-19 to begin — in order to prevent further spread of the virus, according to the CDC.
Quarantining is different from isolation, which is the separation of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 from those who are not sick, according to the CDC.
DO: Keep six feet apart at all times
One of the biggest mistakes Adams said she sees is people disregarding social distancing standards in public. Staying 6 feet apart at all times is what helps prevent the virus spreading from person to person, which is some of the only power we have with this pandemic, she said.
“We as individuals can’t control the number of COVID-19 tests we have access to,” Adams said. “But we certainly can control how quickly it spreads.”
DON’T: Travel to meetings or your friends’ houses
The CDC advises you to use videoconferencing for meetings when possible. In order to prevent the spread at commercial establishments like stores, the CDC recommends using online transactions as much as possible.
DON’T: Shake hands
The CDC advises that everyone stop shaking hands with other people in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Instead, use other non-contact methods of greeting. Instead of hugging a friend, touch elbow-to-elbow, or simply smile.
DO: Wash hands and disinfect surfaces as regularly as possible
The CDC advises that washing hands is one of the best ways to prevent getting sick, especially after going out in public. The proper way to wash hands is with soap and water for 20 seconds, which ensures that any germs or bacteria won’t spread. If you need a creative way to time your hand washing, sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in a row, or check out our article on Athens songs to wash your hands to.
At home, you can keep your space as hygienic as possible by disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily.