Social Distancing, What Does It Mean?

16 Mar Social Distancing, What Does It Mean?

By: Dr. Susan Sirota

At this unprecedented time when the coronavirus pandemic has forced school closures and total social disruption, many families are asking us what they can and can’t do.

What does “social distancing actually mean? You may have heard the phrase “flattening the curve,” but what does that mean for you?

We’ll answer the second question first. “Flattening the curve” is a mathematical way to say that we need to do our part to reduce the number of people with COVID-19. As you see in this image, without taking protective measures like social distancing, the healthcare system- doctors, nurses, hospitals, offices- would quickly become overwhelmed.

Social distancing is a quick way to express that we need to minimize our contact with people other than our immediate households not only for our own protection but for those around us as well.

Here are some examples of what social distancing looks like:

  1. No family visits at each other’s houses or parties. No playdates or sleepovers. Inviting over just one friend means you are creating new opportunities for virus transmission that school and public event cancellations are intended to prevent. Social interaction at home is no different than the interaction we try to eliminate by closing schools. Sharing food is particularly risky. Like other viruses, someone who comes over looking well can be contagious.
  2. Instead, take walks outside, and go for bike rides or runs. Walk the dog as a family. Try to go outside daily. Going outside is important as we finally emerge from our long Chicago winter.
  3. Try not to have your kids play with children who aren’t in your family even when you’re outdoors; if they do it is important to keep a distance and avoid direct physical contact. Instead, play outside as a family. When indoors, make time for virtual connection with friends.
  4. Avoid the park or playground or other public facilities. Coronavirus can live on plastic and metal surfaces in these environments for up to 3 days.
  5. Limit the number of times you go out to stores for now. Of course, we all need to go to the grocery store, but try to go less frequently and when the store isn’t as busy. Maintain social distance when out (6 feet) and wash your hands well before and after. When possible, consider which items you can purchase online.
  6. Don’t visit nursing homes or other living areas dedicated to the elderly. They are most at risk for complications from coronavirus. Instead, find a way to virtually connect.
  7. Finally, if you or your children are sick, please stay home. We want you to STAY AT HOME AND USE THE PHONE when sick. Do not hesitate to call us for any concerns about illness. As tests become more readily available we will help you determine by phone or possibly a virtual visit if your child needs coronavirus testing or a visit to our office.


Flattening the curve through social distancing isn’t necessarily a bad thing! This is a time for your family to take back some of the time that is often stolen by busy schedules. It’s an opportunity to discover creativity you didn’t know you or your child has. You’ll have time to reconnect with your teen. You might even discover a new favorite family activity! We’ll be posting suggestions during this time on our Facebook and Instagram pages to keep us all busy.

Most importantly, remember that all of this is temporary. By following recommended guidelines for social distancing and other preventive activities, you can help ensure that things get back to normal as quickly as possible.

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