It’s becoming increasingly apparent that our battle with COVID-19 is a marathon, not a sprint — and over the course of this marathon, it will be crucial to keep a safe distance from other people to prevent the spread of disease.
But social distancing is a horrible term for this purpose. We believe ‘physical distancing’ does a much better job here.
Physical — not social — distancing
The World Health Organization (WHO) has started using the phrase “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing”, and we believe it’s an important step in the right direction.
Physical distancing is absolutely necessary in many cases — it’s one of our best tools to keep the virus at bay and prevent its spread. Meanwhile, social distancing implies a disconnect from our friends and family, which is not necessarily the case.
It’s an important distinction.
Thanks to modern technology, we have fairly easy ways to keep in touch with our loved ones. Of course, a phone call or a Zoom meeting isn’t the same as meeting face-to-face, but it’s a way to remain connected socially.
“Technology, right now, has advanced so greatly that we can keep connected in many ways without actually physically being in the same room or physically being in the same space with people,” WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said on March 20.
“We’re changing to say physical distance and that’s on purpose because we want people to still remain connected,” she added.
To sum it up
Physical distancing is essential for the time being. The coronavirus is chiefly spread through respiratory droplets, so maintaining a safe distance is key to decreasing transmission.
Social distancing sounds like you’re just not engaging with anyone, which is absolutely not what you should be doing. This is a trying time in many ways and it’s normal to feel isolated, anxious, and worried. Preserving a sense of community is essential to our mental wellbeing, whether it’s the small community of our family and closest friends or whether it’s another community we may feel a sense of belonging to.
For this reason, all articles on ZME Science mentioning distancing measuring will refer to the term “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing”. Hopefully, some of you might be inspired to do the same with your own communication, whether it’s on social media or in private messages with friends and family. Words matter and they can have an immense impact.
Now more than ever, it’s important to stay socially connected, even if we are physically distant.