Is social distancing the COVID-19 remedy researchers are looking for?
In an era where contemporary research takes flight and scientific advancement dominates, society has promoted a standard set of guidelines to follow when illness or injury strikes.
If you come down with a severe cold, amplify your vitamin C intake and engage in the necessary amount of rest to fight it off. If you strain a muscle, an anti-inflammatory dosage and the R.I.C.E. technique (rest, ice, compression and elevation) are normally prescribed. If you succumb to sleep deprivation, a steaming mug of chamomile tea and the sweet scent of lavender should knock you out in a wink.
But what is someone to do when faced with a deadly disease that’s invisible to the naked eye, continues to baffle medical professionals and is currently responsible for over 100,000 deaths worldwide?
The satirical response falls along the lines of “hide and pray that it doesn’t find you.” To the dismay of many, however, this answer seems to be the next best alternative to a distinctly absent vaccine.
The novel coronavirus (also classified as COVID-19) spreads primarily by person-to-person contact, in addition to close affiliation with contaminated surfaces or areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Therefore, individuals worldwide have been heavily encouraged to take part in the advocated practices of social-distancing, isolation and, in more extreme cases, self-quarantine.
In order to aid individuals in classifying where they fall on the COVID-19 awareness spectrum, the American Psychological Association (APA) has found it highly necessary to properly define each of these terms.
Social-distancing, the broadest of the three terms, is the discipline of “keeping a safe distance (approximately 6 feet) from others and avoiding [large] gathering spaces (i.e. schools, religious institutes, public transportation, etc.),” according to the APA.
Quarantine, the next level of disengagement, requires healthy individuals who may have found themselves in proximity with an infected person or area to steer clear from all social contact for at least two weeks. This practice is to help said person determine if he or she has contracted the virus.
Isolation, the most extreme stage of confinement, occurs when an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 and is mandated by medical professionals to sequester away from the rest of society until otherwise notified.
In a nationwide effort to eliminate the current spread of COVID-19 and follow through with CDC recommendations, many U.S. states have issued their own versions of the “social-distancing mandate,” many of which are requiring participating individuals to cut themselves off from most, if not all, social interaction.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is one of many governmental authorities to take the CDC’s code of caution seriously. As of midnight on Thursday, April 2, he enforced a “30-day-stay-at-home-order” for the entire state of Florida.
Florida resident Vanessa Jankech is one of the state’s many citizens to take DeSantis’ governmental mandate to heart.
A previously full-time employee at Palate Bub’s & Ice Cream (a small town parlor located in Sanford, Florida), Jankech enjoys the social interaction she receives when individuals looking to satisfy their sweet-tooth wander into the shop.
After taking the rising statistics into consideration, however, she recently requested a personal leave of absence in order to better practice social distancing.
Diagnosed with clinical anxiety at the age of 12, Jankech often finds it difficult to cope with her symptoms when medical manifestations, such as COVID-19, are on the rise.
In regards to the pandemic in question, the Florida resident believes remaining informed about the virus and practicing social-distancing protocol is of utmost importance.
“As soon as I let myself start feeling anxiety about [COVID-19], the first thing I started doing was check the Sanford news, Sanford Herald and Seminole County Twitter,” Jankech said. “[I’m] always looking for numbers, statistics and updates.”
Despite residents such as Jankech doing their best to comply with statewide mandates, there will always be a select few who firmly believe the law doesn’t apply to them.
Heavily criticized the past few weeks for not taking immediate action in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Florida, DeSantis implores society to understand the difficult position he’s in.
In a recent news conference, the Florida governor recalled witnessing Miami residents occupying select beaches, all of which were supposedly “shut down.”
Regarding the situation at hand, he emphasized that, when it comes down to the heart of the issue, people will do what they think is best for themselves, not the majority.
“It’s just unfortunate,” DeSantis said. “But no matter what you do, you’re going to have a class of folks who are going to do whatever the hell they want to [do].”
So where does that leave the rest of society? Should they comply with social distancing mandates or imitate the actions of those who couldn’t care less?
The answer, researchers have come to determine, is to stay within the perimeters of social distancing boundaries.
The practice of social distancing is, in fact, resulting in a significant decrease in coronavirus-related cases, according to statistics found by U.S. epidemiologists (individuals who study patterns of distribution and rates of reproduction).
“In epidemiologists’ terms, the number of cases caused by each infected person, called the effective reproduction number (Re), has fallen precipitously,” Epidemiologist Gerardo Chowell of Georgia State University said. “If people’s contacts drop by a certain amount, then so does the reproduction number.”
In simplest terms, by minimizing their physical contact with other people entirely, individuals are hindering the virus’ capability of spreading at all.
Someone doesn't have to be officially infected in order for the virus to be transmitted to another person, according to the CDC.
In recent findings, “healthy” individuals can be unknown carriers of COVID-19; it has since been determined that 25-50% of infected individuals are asymptomatic and entirely unaware they even have the virus.
This being the case, researchers, medical professionals and governmental authorities have all come to the same conclusion: If you want to eliminate any risk of contracting or transmitting the coronavirus, your best bet is to follow social-distancing protocols and stay home.
By Brenna Brown