Caregiving in the Time of CoVid-19, #4: So What Does Social Distancing Accomplish?

Note: Sharing the image below
may help people make better decisions.

“Why,” my mom asked, “do we need to do this?” She was asking why she cannot have visitors and why my husband and I are for the most part staying in our home and aiming to go to the grocery store no more than every fourth or fifth day.

IMG_2172So what does social distancing accomplish? If I could visit, or if Mom were still able to use her computer, I would share the graphic in this post. Alas, I need to make do, trying to explain over the phone. I used the image on the right to help me simplify my explanation — no easy task for an adult child.

When I talk with my mom my description goes something like this.

The concept of separating people as much as possible during an epidemic has been around for a long time, but the term social distancing is relatively recent. When an epidemic strikes, separating people from one another, canceling crowd events, closing schools, and encouraging people to stay home as much as possible can reduce the number of cases at any one time, even though many of those people may eventually get sick. With fewer people ill at any one time, the demands on the health system lessen and medical care can be better.

The image, originating with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), shows an orange curve illustrating how an epidemic progresses without social distancing (many more cases at one time), superimposed with a longer, flatter gray curve when people incorporate social distancing strategies (fewer cases) into their daily lives. Notice that the epidemic may last longer with social distancing, but the number of people sick at any one time is far lower. The lower number of sick individuals relieves the burden on medical personnel and on hospital resources and equipment, enabling better care.

People around the country are sharing hashtags #flattenthecurve and #flatteningthecurve, and you can, too.

This article published in Vox, How Canceled Events and Self-quarantines Save Lives, in One Chart, has lots of information about social distancing and the above image which the creators have given permission to use and share. Another informative article, What’s Social Distancing? Flattening the Curve? Your Covid-19 Questions, Answered, addresses many questions about social distancing as well as other CoVid-19 topics.



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