Health One Family Medicine

Why Social Distancing Works

The coronavirus has been spreading like wildfire and causing death on an unprecedented skill, this is why governments are asking their communities to stay at home in their efforts to reduce contact between people. This is known as social distancing and if done right, can slow the spread of the virus to minimize casualties.

Here’s why social distancing is important:

Social Distancing Works

COVID-19 spreads from person to person in many ways. It could start with a harmless sneeze, a cough, or leaving respiratory droplets on your skin and clothing. Touching droplets laden with COVID-19 and then touching your mouth or nose without washing your hands is the surefire way of giving the virus entry into your own body.

As a result, regulatory bodies and governments are enforcing social distancing in different ways. According to the CDC, social distancing means:

  • Avoiding mass gatherings
  • Avoiding ‘congregate settings’
  • Maintaining a distance of about 6 feet from other people at all times

By practicing social distancing, we can minimize close contact that people have with others, which reduces our chances of catching the virus and spreading it to our loved others and other people in the community.

Physical Distancing Has Helped with Pandemics in the Past

To understand the effectiveness of social distancing, we should take a lesson from the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. This deadly disease affected a third of the population, infected 500 million people, and killed over 50 million people worldwide, 675,000 coming from the US. We’ll take a look at lessons learned from the Influenza pandemic in Philadelphia and St. Louis.

St. Louis took extreme social distancing measures by closing down schools, libraries, courtrooms, churches, playgrounds, and more. Public gatherings of more than 20 people were banned.

Philadelphia on the other hand, ignored warnings of influenza and decided to hold a public gathering in support for the war. This drew large crowds of people who watched the procession.

Within three days, all the hospitals in Philadelphia were filled with patients infected by Influenza.

Meanwhile, St. Louis managed to keep their death rate to less than half of Philadelphia, based on a 2007 study


In general, cities that practiced social distancing had fewer deaths and infections compared to those that ignored warnings.

This proves just how effective social distancing can be in curbing the spread of pandemics, and the coronavirus is no exception. Until we build a vaccine, our communities must practice social distancing to stop further spreading the virus.

How Soon You Lift Lockdowns Also Plays a Key role

It is easy to buy into the false sense of security that usually follows when a city or state conducts successful lockdowns. Fewer cases of COVID-19 and almost zero deaths may ease the fear around the virus, causing cities to relax these measures.

How soon a city relaxes social mitigation can play a role in whether they go through a second round of infections. Looking back, Minneapolis had the lowest per capita death rate of all the cities in the US due to the Spanish flu. Studies indicate that the city would have had a much lower death rate had their people continued to stay at home.

What to do When You Must Go Outside?

Here are a few recommendations from the CDC:

  • Keep your distance of about 6 feet from others
  • Avoid groups of 10 or more people
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze
  • Wear a face mask at all times
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

Here is a helpful video you can watch to properly disinfect shopping bags and packages.

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