Will social distancing be the new normal?

Some states are looking at relaxing restrictions and social distancing measures, such as stay-at-home orders while others suggest social distancing may need to continue through 2022. What do you think?

What does social distancing mean? According to the CDC social distancing involves “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance” whenever possible to limit the ability of the coronavirus to spread.

Social distancing is not the same as self-quarantine or isolation, two other practices being utilized to minimize the coronavirus spread. The key difference is that a quarantine or isolation restricts the movement of people within a certain area or zone to limit transferring and spreading an infection. Social distancing places no such locational constraints, rather it is a behavioral practice to lower the risk in most circumstances.

Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic COVID-19 expert, predicts that the COVID-19 pandemic will change many aspects of U.S. culture in the future, including the need to always practice social distancing measures. “I think that’s going to become inevitable. I think we very well may become a culture, at least in the wintertime when there are so many respiratory viruses circulating, that we’ll be more like Asian cultures, where they more readily wear masks when outdoors. I think we’ll take more seriously in clinics and hospitals, and nursing homes, the respiratory diseases that circulate every year, and which lead to hospitalizations and deaths ― influenza being the exemplar,” says Dr. Poland, who is the director of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group.

He also sees this pandemic changing the future of health care delivery. “There’s a lot we can do with telehealth, telemedicine. We don’t necessarily need to bring everybody in, expose them to some of the potential dangers of that, in order to advise them as to what the next course of treatment or the next diagnostic test may be.”

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Though we might be burdened with the effect of being ‘stir-crazy’ in our homes, we need to keep a level of perspective that the Social Distancing measures put in place by our elected officials are ultimately there for our protection, and for the protection of our community. It is up to us individually and as a community to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to stay at home except for the necessary purposes allowed.  Let us continue to support and be kind to one another and reach out to our family, friends and colleagues (and importantly, to those isolated) using electronic platforms. This is our immediate future and stark reality of the current circumstances. We’re in this together. This too shall pass.

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