Social Distancing: Just Do It!

This illustration, created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows the virus' spiky, crown-like fringe that shrouds each viral particle—giving it a “coronated” appearance. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention )

Health Editor’s Note: You can easily see and hear if someone near you is sneezing, coughing, or just plain ill.  You obviously know that you must stay as far away from that person as possible.  But, with COVID-19 a person may not have any symptoms what-so-ever, but still be shedding the virus. This is the clear and present danger issue.  To prevent being in the proximity of a COVID-19 shedding person is to just not be around other people. 

The practice of social distancing contains several steps:

  • Remain at home and leave only for extremely necessary needs (food, medications, sanity). You can go to unpopulated /outdoor areas for exercise. No other people there, correct? You can be there.
  • Vigorously wash your hands for 20 seconds at a time with water and soap. Wash as far up you arms as your clothing will allow. Also, why not wash your face while you are at it.
  • Use hand sanitizer, if you have it, only when you are unable to wash with soap and water. 
  • Do not touch your face, nose, hands, eyes without first washing your hands.  This will be the hardest safety rule to follow since we are constantly touching our faces.
  • Remove your shoes when coming into your home.
  • Stay away from gatherings of people and stay at least 6 feet away from another person who is not in your immediate family. No handshaking, hugging, kissing, touching, etc.  

Be aware that for every person who has been tested for COVID-19 and is positive, there are several more who have not been tested, yet carrying COVID-19….Carol

To Beat COVID-19, Social Distancing is a Must

by Dr. Francis Collins/Director National Institute of Health

Even in less challenging times, many of us try to avoid close contact with someone who is sneezing, coughing, or running a fever to avoid getting sick ourselves. Our attention to such issues has now been dramatically heightened by the emergence of a novel coronavirus causing a pandemic of an illness known as COVID-19.

Many have wondered if we couldn’t simply protect ourselves by avoiding people with symptoms of respiratory illness. Unfortunately, the answer is no. A new study shows that simply avoiding symptomatic people will not go far enough to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s because researchers have discovered that many individuals can carry the novel coronavirus without showing any of the typical symptoms of COVID-19: fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. But these asymptomatic or only mildly ill individuals can still shed virus and infect others.

This conclusion adds further weight to the recent guidance from U.S. public health experts: what we need most right now to slow the stealthy spread of this new coronavirus is a full implementation of social distancing. What exactly does social distancing mean? Well, for starters, it is recommended that people stay at home as much as possible, going out only for critical needs like groceries and medicines, or to exercise and enjoy the outdoors in wide open spaces. Other recommendations include avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, no handshakes, regular handwashing, and, when encountering someone outside of your immediate household, trying to remain at least 6 feet apart.

These may sound like extreme measures. But the new study by NIH-funded researchers, published in the journal Science, documents why social distancing may be our best hope to slow the spread of COVID-19 [1]. Here are a few highlights of the paper, which looks back to January 2020 and mathematically models the spread of the coronavirus within China:

• For every confirmed case of COVID-19, there are likely another five to 10 people with undetected infections.
• Although they are thought to be only about half as infectious as individuals with confirmed COVID-19, individuals with undetected infections were so prevalent in China that they apparently were the infection source for 86 percent of confirmed cases.
• After China established travel restrictions and social distancing, the spread of COVID-19 slowed considerably.

The findings come from a small international research team that included NIH grantee Jeffrey Shaman, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York. The team developed a computer model that enabled researchers to simulate the time and place of infections in a grid of 375 Chinese cities. The researchers did so by combining existing data on the spread of COVID-19 in China with mobility information collected by a location-based service during the country’s popular 40-day Spring Festival, when travel is widespread.

As these new findings clearly demonstrate, each of us must take social distancing seriously in our daily lives. Social distancing helped blunt the pandemic in China, and it will work in other nations, including the United States. While many Americans will likely spend weeks working and studying from home and practicing other social distancing measures, the stakes remain high. If this pandemic isn’t contained, this novel coronavirus could well circulate around the globe for years to come, at great peril to us and our loved ones.

As we commit ourselves to spending more time at home, progress continues to be made in using the power of biomedical research to combat this novel coronavirus. A notable step this week was the launch of an early-stage human clinical trial of an investigational vaccine, called mRNA-1273, to protect against COVID-19 [2]. The vaccine candidate was developed by researchers at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and their collaborators at the biotechnology company Moderna, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

This Phase 1 NIAID-supported trial will look at the safety of the vaccine—which cannot cause infection because it is made of RNA, not the whole coronavirus—in 45 healthy adults. The first volunteer was injected this past Monday at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Seattle. If all goes well and larger follow-up clinical studies establish the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, it will then be necessary to scale up production to make millions of doses. While initiating this trial in record time is reason for hope, it is important to be realistic about all of the steps that still remain. If the vaccine candidate proves safe and effective, it will likely take at least 12–18 months before it would be widely available.

In the meantime, social distancing remains one of the best weapons we have to slow the silent spread of this virus and flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will give our health-care professionals, hospitals, and other institutions more valuable time to prepare, protect themselves, and aid the many people whose lives may be on the line from this coronavirus.

Importantly, saving lives from COVID-19 requires all of us—young, old and in-between—to take part. Healthy young people, whose risk of dying from coronavirus is not zero but quite low, might argue that they shouldn’t be constrained by social distancing. However, the research highlighted here demonstrates that such individuals are often the unwitting vector for a dangerous virus that can do great harm—and even take the lives of older and more vulnerable people. Think about your grandparents. Then skip the big gathering. We are all in this together


[1] Substantial undocumented infection facilitates the rapid dissemination of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2). Li R, Pei S, Chen B, Song Y, Zhang T, Yang W, Shaman J. Science. 16 March 2020. [Preprint ahead of publication]

[2] NIH clinical trial of investigational vaccine for COVID-19 begins. NIH News Release, March 16, 2020.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) (NIH)

COVID-19, MERS & SARS (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/NIH)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta)

NIH Support: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; National Institute of General Medical Sciences


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  1. I think this article is going down the wrong path. Dr. Paul Offit who is recognized as a leading proponent of vaccines as a safe and effective solution for all ills has just announced that we must be careful not to move too fast in creating and pushing a new vaccine for covid19. Why? Because it has disastrously failed in all past attempts and has caused harm. There is no cure for the common cold and we should be careful to examine just how bad this really bad cold (covid19) is. The epicenter is reporting no new cases in China as well as containment in South Korea and Japan. The statistics reveal that this bad cold carried less morbidity than the annual flu and articles like this as well as the Pharma supported MSM are creating an warranted mass panic! The overall effect from a shutdown of our economy will be more devastating that the usual death of our sickest portion of the population. That’s what this is. China used mass doses of Vitamin C to knock it down. Why can’t we do that here?? Nobody will get sick from that and we can all go back to work…
    I guess all this fear mongering is al to get us to take more risky vaccines to supports Big Pharma…

    • BEENTHEREDONETHAT, No social, actual physical distancing is not about vaccines, big Pharma, or anything other than cutting down exposure to the virus by not being around the producers of the COVID-19 virus, humans.

    • Carol, So the numbers are showing that this corona virus is way less morbid than the annual flu but we are shutting down large portions of our economy for it and restricting our freedoms especially now in California. Whos’ to say this practice won’t continue with the flu next year which will be shown to be more deadly than corona virus! This is what real numbers and statistics are indicating. The panic is created by Pharma special interests that design and control the disseminated talking points without real statistical analysis. Real science involves All the information available and not cherry picked info like a special interest would have. I’m sure Big Pharma is doing well in this manufactured crisis. Meanwhile the rest of the country suffers under these draconian measures. I live near Kirkland Washington in Bothell and my Grandmother went to die in the Life Care Center of Kirkland where the covid19 epicenter is. Those who passed would have passed naturally from something else as we don’t live forever and none of us get out of this world alive. We have to keep moving on in life even though elderly and our sickest pass away. It’s how nature is! Healthy people are not dying from this bad cold….

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