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Social Distancing, Explained

This information was accurate at the time of publication. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, some information may have changed since the original publication date.

In an effort to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, one of the preventive measures we can all take is to increase your space and distance around others. Avoiding crowded areas or keeping your distance by social distancing—also known as physical distancing—helps avoid possible exposure to the virus.

Why Social Distancing?

If a person is infected with COVID-19, the small particles that are breathed out contain virus particles. The closer this person is to a greater number of people, the more likely they will spread the virus to others.

“Social distancing means limiting close contact with other humans,” says Emily Spivak, MD, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health. “The principle is that if we avoid close contact, we can flatten the curve and reduce transmission of the COVID-19 disease.”

Certain groups—older adults, those with chronic conditions, and anyone with a compromised immune system—are at high risk of getting sick from COVID-19. It’s even more important to protect these groups.

Physical Distancing Explained, Infographic

What should I do?

It’s simple: Don’t leave the house if you are sick. And be sure to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots are available for people ages 6 months and older. You can get your booster if it has been at least two months since your last vaccine dose.

When COVID-19 community levels are high, consider wearing a well-fitted mask when you leave the house and keep your distance from others. People who are at high risk for getting very sick may want to wear a mask when community levels are either medium or high. The CDC recommends steps to take if you test positive for COVID-19, including staying home for at least five days.

Is it safe to gather with others?

Just like with other respiratory viruses, someone may be infected with COVID-19 and not know it. No matter if the group you’re gathering with is small or large, there is always a risk.