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What does social distancing mean?

A woman is sitting alone reading a book. A tea cup and flowers are nearby.

Social distancing is a way of slowing down the spread of an infectious disease like COVID-19. It means limiting how we interact with other people to lower the chances of sharing the virus. 

For venues like schools, movie theaters and churches, social distancing may mean closing temporarily. For individuals, it might mean staying home or at least 6 feet away from other people.

Why 6 feet? COVID-19 seems to spread mainly through droplets breathed out when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes or talks. It can sometimes linger in the air too. Keeping your distance helps lower the chances you’ll breathe in the virus.

How to do it

If you're asked to socially distance, here's what to do:

  • Limit face-to-face contact with people who don't live in your home.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick with COVID-19. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face mask when you have to go out in public.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others, even when you wear a face mask.

Coping with the distance

Social distancing can feel stressful or lonely. Try some of these tips to help you relax and cope:

  • Stay connected with family and friends via phone, email, video chat, text messaging or social media.
  • Try taking deep breaths, stretching or engaging in activities you enjoy like hobbies or reading.
  • Talk about your feelings with loved ones and friends.
  • Do your best to stay hopeful and positive. You might try keeping a journal where you can write down things you are grateful for or that are going well.

You can stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news and recommendations by checking in with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reviewed 1/11/2021

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