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The Practice of Social Distancing

Updated: May 4, 2020

In the midst of a global pandemic, federal, state and regional governments are encouraging citizens to practice social distancing in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Schools are closed, games are cancelled, nursing homes have banned non-essential visitors, and travel is restricted. We still don't know much about this virus but we do know that it is moderately contagious and moderately severe. There have been 33 confirmed cases in Michigan over eleven counties and numbers are expected to get much worse. As of March 13, 2020 at 4 pm, there have been 41 deaths from 1,629 cases in the U.S. (a death rate of 2.5%). Not insignificant.

As a 40 year old in good health, I consider myself at low risk for experiencing severe symptoms or death from this virus. My immediate family included. Likely, many of you fall into that same category. I also am not particularly thrilled with the idea of isolation. It does sound appealing to wear pajamas for full week, I won't lie. However, my spouse, our three children, and I are very accustomed to going and doing. Period. We go to the gym, the hardware store, the chiropracter, softball/baseball practice, piano, soccer... the list could go on. How will we survive each other cooped up like our chickens for weeks on end? I want to do anything in my power to protect the high-risk population (the elderly and those with severe chronic health conditions). I'm sure you do as well. So, what does that mean for us?

Obviously, we can forego the tradition of shaking hands as a greeting for now (and forever, really). We can wash our hands. We can stay home if we are sick. By the way, I think we all agree these are things that should be done ALWAYS and not just during a health crisis. But, as we learn

more about this virus, we are being told that asymptomatic transmission is possible and potentially driving the spread of the Corona Virus. This means that we could be infected and contagious and not even realize! Italy reported on Wednesday more than 5,800 cases of COVID and 233 deaths amidst schools, businesses, and transportation shutting down. Guidelines have been issued to medical providers there to prioritize patients with the best chance of success in what is being called “catastrophe medicine”. Many argue the country did too little too late and that if the U.S. does not take drastic measures now, it will experience a medical system collapse like that of Italy’s (or worse). Some hospitals are already at or near capacity and we need to flatten the curve.

So let’s do everyone a favor and cancel that play date. Don’t ask your parent to watch your kids while you are at work; in fact, they shouldn’t even visit. Don’t go bowling, out to eat, or to a show. Don’t pretend this is an extended spring break for travel or fun trips to play land. Stock up on a reasonable amount of food and household supplies (no need to totally clear out the shelf) and hunker down, folks. Try not to go out at all (especially if you are high risk). Work from home when you can or just take some time off, even if it means a financial burden is to come. Watch a live stream of church service. Schedule phone calls with friends you normally see. Play outside and go for walks or runs, keeping a reasonable distance from others (6 feet is recommended). Read a good book (or two). Put a puzzle together. Deep clean and organize. But ride this out at home. If you do become desperate for socialization (and you are not in a high risk category) limit interactions to a few (that are also not high-risk and do not have interactions with that population). Keep in mind that every time you venture into public or encounter another human you are potentially putting someone else at risk.

The last few days I have witnessed varying degrees of panic and denial surrounding this situation, but mostly, my friends, family and work associates are in shock. No one anticipated anything of this magnitude. No one really knows just how bad it will get and just how many of our loved ones will suffer. But you have the power to make a difference in your community. Best wishes for you and yours during this unprecedented time.

I welcome your comments and respectful discussion!

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