Are you maintaining your social distance?

By Lana Kalawoun our School Counselor

Social Distancing Part I:  Why It’s Important And How To Maintain It

By now, the words “social distancing”, “isolation” and “quarantine” have become a part of our daily vocabulary. And for good reason.

A simple definition of social distancing is the following: avoiding close contact with people who do not live with you as well as public spaces where surfaces might be contaminated.

This will enable us to “flatten the curve”; slowing the spread of the virus so that fewer people are getting sick at one time and decreasing the risk of overwhelming our medical system. Additionally, if people are safe at home, the virus will find it hard to infect new people and will die out faster.

I’ve seen people asking questions about this sudden isolation such as: can we still order takeaway food? Is it okay to have sleepovers? What do we do with items we buy from the supermarket? Can’t I go for a walk?

I’ve done my research (at the risk of going crazy myself from reading the word Coronavirus 2948 times per day) and can answer some of the questions and worries you might be having.

Question 1. Can I start social distancing tomorrow? I really want to go out today.

According to researchers, we were supposed to start social distancing yesterday. Every day counts. There’ll be plenty of time to go out once all of this is over. Stay home now. And remember, this isn’t a permanent state. This is only a moment in time. Once it’s over, we’ll be glad that we stayed home and helped in not making things worse.

Question 2. Can I have a sleepover with my friends? We’ll only be 3 people!

No. Social distancing doesn’t only apply to school and work. It applies to any situation involving people sharing a space together. During this time, we NEED to physically be away from each other. But it doesn’t mean we can’t reach out to our friends and family. On the contrary, it’s important to stay connected with your friends and to keep those social gates open! Phone calls, Skype, Zoom, Meet, WhatsApp Call, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat.. The possibilities are endless.

Question 3. Can my child have a playdate?

No. Same answer as Question 2.

Question 4. What do I do with items and products that I buy at the supermarket?

To avoid big gatherings at supermarkets, try to avoid rush hour and go during quieter times. Since the virus can live on some surfaces for hours/days, make sure not to touch your face and then wash your hands as soon as you’re home. Once home, use a mix of Clorox and water to wipe down all the items you’ve bought (as well as throwing away the bags they came in).

Question 5. Can I order takeout?

Takeout meals are riskier than preparing food at home because there’s a big chain of people interacting with your food before it gets to you (the delivery guy, the people cooking it, bagging it, etc). Minimizing this chain is surely safer – especially if you’re in the target demographic of people at risk. We don’t know yet if there is a big risk of transmission from food delivery and so it’s up to each one of us to weigh the pros and cons of doing so.

Question 6. Is it okay to go outside for a walk/exercise?

Being outside, in itself, is not wrong. It’s being in close quarters with other people that’s risky. The CDC recommends a distance of 6 feet (almost 2 meters) between you and others. On the contrary, it’s healthy to go out for some fresh air; walking, biking, exercising. But be sure to keep your personal space safe. It’s also recommended not to touch benches or surfaces outside as they do not get cleaned often.

Question 7. Should I shower the moment I get home from outside?

There’s no harm in showering after being outside. Researchers advise you to shower and get out of the clothes you’ve been in if you’ve been somewhere where you’ve interacted with people or touched grocery bags or money (the supermarket, the pharmacy).

Question 8. Should I avoid interacting with family members at home?

If you and your family are healthy, not exhibiting symptoms and taking all necessary precautions (washing hands, staying home), then there’s no need for that. It’s important not to overly disconnect. It doesn’t hurt to wipe down and disinfect shared facilities, such as the kitchen and the bathroom.

Question 9. I’m feeling sick. Should I go to the hospital right away?

If you’re feeling the onset of symptoms, make sure to wear a mask around your family members and to stay isolated so as to not infect anyone else. I also advise you to CALL the hospital, explain your symptoms and ask them what to do next. If you show up at the hospital unannounced, you might be putting other people at risk of infection.

I hope this helped answer any questions you might be having. If you have any additional questions or worries, don’t hesitate to contact me on l.kalawoun@ahliahschool.edu.lb.

Part II will focus more on how to deal with anxiety and stress during social distancing.

Stay safe and healthy,

Lana Kalawoun- School Counselor