In the United States, public health officials are recommending that even healthy people stay at home as much as possible. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all events with more than 50 people be canceled in the U.S.
Think of social distancing as the middle ground between quarantine and doing whatever you want, whenever you want, says K.C. Rondello, M.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Public Health & Emergency Management at Adelphi University.
“Social distancing involves all the choices we make that create a barrier of space between us and others,” Dr. Rondello tells Men’s Health.
According to the CDC, you’d want to maintain about six feet of personal space and avoid public places like movie theaters and shopping centers.
Slowing the spread of the disease reduces the strain on the healthcare system by limiting the number of people who are severely sick and need hospital care. It also gives researchers more time to develop treatments and vaccines.
Research from previous pandemics show that this method works. In 2009, closing schools for 18 days in Mexico helped reduce transmission of H1N1 by 29 to 37 percent, according to a 2011 study published in PLOS Medicine.
If you’re confused about what to do right now, you’re not alone—even these experts occasionally disagreed on the answers to my questions. Where there were discrepancies, I’ve included all the different answers as fully as possible, and as the situation has evolved, I’ve allowed the experts to update their answers to questions to reflect new information. This guide is aimed toward those who are symptom-free and not part of an at-risk group, with an addendum at the end for those in quarantine. If you are symptom-free but are over 60 years old; have asthma, heart disease, or diabetes; or are otherwise at risk, experts recommend defaulting to the most conservative response to each of these questions.
There is a general consensus that while young and healthy people who are at lower risk for personally suffering severe illness from the coronavirus don’t have to be locking themselves in their homes for the next month, they do need to dramatically alter their daily lives, starting now.