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Social Distancing: What It Is, Why It’s Important, How to Do It It’s not the same as a quarantine, and it’s not just for high-risk populations

En español | “Social distancing” is a phrase that’s dominating news headlines and working its way into everyday conversation. A month ago, most Americans had never heard of it. 

“It’s a strange term,” admits Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — one of the federal agencies that has been pushing the practice of social distancing as a way to slow the spread of the illness caused by the new coronavirus. 

“Usually when we talk about health and wellness, it’s all about connectedness and really reaching out and being together with community, family, friends, loved ones. But social distancing means trying to keep some space between you and other people,” Schuchat adds. 

For many communities across the country, this idea of space is quickly becoming the new normal. School districts have canceled classes, professional sports leagues have suspended their seasons, and crowded parks and museums have closed their gates. 

It may seem excessive for those unaffected by the illness. But experts say it works. Here’s how.

 

For the latest coronavirus news and advice go to AARP.org/coronavirus.


What, exactly, is social distancing? 

Social distancing is not the same as quarantining or isolating oneself. It’s simply “trying to keep some space between you and other people” — about six feet of space, Schuchat says. This is why many public events and activities where individuals are typically crammed close to one another are on hold. 

“We think that infections are spread by respiratory droplets, spread when you’re within about six feet of another person. And so avoiding those circumstances where you’re going to be really in close quarters with lots of other people can help achieve social distancing,” Schuchat says. 

Space slows the spread 

A key concept of social distancing is slowing the spread of the epidemic in order to “decrease the pressure on the health care system,” Schuchat says. 

“You can imagine if 100 people were going to get sick over 100 days you would have a certain kind of pressure on the health care system. But if 100 people get sick all in the same day, it’s a different kind of pressure,” she says.  

Staying home as much as possible and avoiding crowded spaces — even if you are young, healthy and symptom-free — helps reduce the risk of infection in the high-risk population. 

Images of overloaded hospitals in Wuhan, China, and Northern Italy have illustrated just how dangerous an overwhelmed health care system can be during a pandemic. If society slows the spread, health care workers can “take better care of every individual person,” Schuchat says.

Social distancing protects high-risk individuals 

Most people who get COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, experience mild to moderate symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, experts say. But for some people, the disease can be far worse. And early data show that older adults and individuals with underlying health conditions — such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease — are more likely to experience severe illness, even death. 

Staying home as much as possible and avoiding crowded spaces — even if you are young, healthy and symptom-free — helps reduce the risk of infection in the high-risk population. 

“Often before people even know they’re sick, they could spread the virus. And that’s probably why we’ve seen such rapid spread around the world,” Schuchat says. 

In essence: Keeping your distance from others helps keep others healthy. 

“And we’re focusing quite a bit on protecting the vulnerable,” Schuchat adds.  

What does social distancing look like? 

Washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes are among the most important tactics experts say can help keep COVID-19 at bay. But several regions in the U.S. are adding a few more measures to their list of public health precautions.

In areas where the coronavirus is spreading, people are being told to work from home, if they can, and to avoid public places. The White House is urging all Americans to stay home as much as possible and to avoid groups of more than 10 people at least through April. Nonessential travel is also discouraged.

If you need to go to the store, go first thing in the morning when it’s less likely to be crowded, Schuchat says. And try to keep a safe distance from other shoppers. 

Nursing homes have also barred visitors and nonessential employees during the coronavirus outbreak. Officials are encouraging family and friends to check in with loved ones with a phone call or video chat instead. 

“And certainly check on your neighbors who may be keeping themselves at home” to reduce their risk of infection, Schuchat says. If you are healthy, ask “if they need any help with shopping, with groceries, with filling their prescriptions — anything like that,” she adds. 

More on Coronavirus
Woman washing her soapy hands in a bathroom

JODI JACOBSON/GETTY IMAGES

 

How do you know when to practice social distancing? 

The government is urging all Americans to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the illness, but what that looks like may depend on where you live. The situation in New York, for example, may be different than things in Nebraska.

“We have a pretty diverse country,” Schuchat says.

“This virus is new and we’re still learning about it, and we’re trying to apply the best information possible every single day to protect Americans. It’s a changing situation, so stay informed. Keep up with the news, especially in your local area.”

Editor's note: This story was originally published on March 13, 2020. It's been updated to reflect recent social distancing recommendations.

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Get an early start on the celebration of Earth Day  with these 8 Planet-Friendly Ways To Celebrate Earth Day Celebrate Earth Day by making a few easy changes the Earth will appreciate.

The earth seen from Apollo 17 
Wikigraphists

The first Earth Day (called May Day at the time) was held in 1970 in the US and it’s often considered the start of the modern environmental movement.

Since that initial march against environmental destruction, Earth Day has evolved into a globally celebrated event, with festivities occurring in more than 200 countries.

In its simplest form, it’s a day for people to step back, take a deep breath and appreciate Earth in all its splendor. But for many people Earth Day holds the potential to ignite broad environmental action.

As an internationally recognized holiday, Earth Day is guaranteed to attract the attention of an enormous amount of people. So figuring out how to harness and activate that attention toward sustained action is something activists work hard on.

Be on the lookout for all the environmental groups spreading awareness on April 22nd--they’ll have good advice! But in your free time, celebrate Earth Day by making a few easy changes the Earth will appreciate.

 

1) Get a recyclable water bottle

 

The US alone consumes 50 billion plastic water bottles annually. Most of these bottles are not recycled and end up in landfills, in oceans and elsewhere, which harms organisms and the environment. Just creating these bottles uses 17 million barrels of gasoline, which would be enough to power 1.3 million cars for a year. Even more energy is then spent transporting water bottles and then recycling them.

Ending society’s addiction to unnecessary water bottles would be greatly appreciated by Earth.

FullSizeRenderhero.jpgImage: Gus Stahl

You can start your transition to an eco-friendly reusable bottle on Earth Day. Here are a few good list to choose from.

2) Start composting

 

Earth is the ultimate recycler--it reuses everything that it creates with a little help from the Sun. And everything that lives on the planet is cool with this system of recycling--everything except humans.

Humans are the only things that willfully don’t recycle what they create and use. And that means that a lot of nourishing substances that would otherwise feed wildlife and help it flourish end up in landfills or on strips of asphalt or somewhere else.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Composting biodegradable food and materials is a great way to feed soil, organisms in the soil and plant life while reducing waste.

 

 

All you have to do is create a compost pile in your backyard or, if you’re a city slicker, store all your vegetable, fruit, and other natural scraps in a plastic bag in your freezer and then dump it when full at a compost collecting place.

3) Plant a garden

 

Plant some flowers and get a beautifully fragrant garden. And then plant some vegetables and get all the produce you need. Here’s a guide to starting a garden.

If you live in the city, check out this starter guide.

fire escape garden edited.jpgImage: © Kristine Paulus/Flickr

4) Buy a tree certificate

 

Trees are amazing. But humans relentlessly chop and burn them down. So this Earth Day buy a certificate from Stand for Trees to protect a batch of trees somewhere in the world that’s at risk of deforestation.

Almond treesImage: Flickr: Steve Corey

5) Build a birdhouse or start a bee farm

 

Building a birdhouse is definitely the easier option here. All you’ll need is a couple pieces of wood for birds to stand on and a place to put bird feed.

Bird eating worm.jpgImage: Flickr: drbob97

Starting a bee farm is more complex. But here’s a handy guide that will help you beat back the decline of bees around the world.

6) Make your home energy efficient

 

Houses consume a lot of energy for electricity and heating. In fact, 40% of the energy consumed in the US goes to residential and commercial buildings. For the world to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, everyone would have to consume a set amount of energy annually. The average US household surpasses that amount in 2 weeks

Fortunately, there are many simple ways to cut down on this energy consumption.

From improving insulation to using LED lights to getting a water heater, improving a house’s energy efficiency both helps the environment and saves you a lot of money in the long-run. Here are a few pro tips.

7) Become a better grocery shopper

 

First, get a reusable grocery bag to limit all the plastic produced in the world.

Then try to buy fresh foods that you can carry in reusable containers. For example, fresh fruits and vegetables don’t come prepackaged. Also, nuts, lentils, coffee beans and many other dry goods can generally be purchased from bulk containers. By using reusable containers, you’re further reducing the amount of plastic in the world.

  1. what-does-a-grocery-store-with-no-waste-look-like-b3.jpgImage: Flickr: storebukkebrute
  2. Finally, try to buy local, ethical and environmentally sustainable products. If you can't go local, go ethical and sustainable.
  3. 😎 Enjoy nature!
  4.  
  5. Make sure you set aside a lot of time to enjoy nature this Earth Day. Go for a hike, head to the beach or just sit in a park and appreciate the moment.

nature GreenHatters.jpgImage: Wikimedia Commons- Margus Opp


The Earth is a truly marvelous place that provides all of us with life. As humans, we can surely do a better job taking care of it.

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Notice this contains advertising!

 

Coronavirus and Diabetes: 8 Ways to Stay Safe or if your over 55 with other health issues 

Coronavirus and Diabetes: 8 Ways to Stay Safe

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a real concern that we should all take seriously, especially for people living with diabetes. However, the CDC and other health organizations agree: the best way to combat coronavirus is to be prepared, not panicked.

How to Prepare for Coronavirus with Diabetes

Take care of yourself, reduce your risk, and protect others by doing the following:

  1. Wash your hands frequently—Use hot water and antibacterial soap. Scrub for at least 20 seconds every time.
  2. Try not to touch your face—Viruses that affect the respiratory system enter the body through mucus membranes found in your eyes, nose, lips, and mouth. If you must touch your face, wash your hands before and after.
  3. Use your elbow—When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue. Use your elbow to push open doors.
  4. Wipe down when in doubt—Use disinfectant wipes before touching surfaces touched by others, such as tables, counters, chairs, grocery carts, and gas pumps.
  5. Practice "social distancing"—Avoid large gatherings and anyone with a fever or cough. In the near-term, work from home if possible and consider tech-based social interactions (text, phone calls, video chat).
  6. Fill your prescriptions—Make sure your medications are filled, including oral drugs, insulin, and any other supplies you use to manage your diabetes, such as syringes, strips, and lancets.
  7. Stock up on supplies—The Department of Homeland Security recommends households have a first-aid kit and 14-day supply of food and household items, like detergent.
  8. Stay informed! When it comes to staying healthy, knowledge is power. The following links give you have easy access to helpful information. 

What You Need to Know about Diabetes and the Coronavirus (Diatribe)

 

Coronavirus and Diabetes - What You Should Know(Beyond Type 1)

 

Coronavirus and Older adults: What to Know and How to Prepare (CNN)

 

What to Buy if You're Quarantined at Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic (Business Insider)

 

How to Disinfect Your Space on an Airplane (New York Times)

 

Coronavirus Live Updates (NBC)

 

Coronavirus Myths and Misinformation Debunked (CNN)

Be smart. Be safe. Take care of yourself and take care of each other.

We're in this together. ❤️

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