Skip to main content

What does social distancing mean?

A woman is sitting alone reading a book. A tea cup and flowers are nearby.

You can't read or listen to the news right now without hearing the term "social distancing." But what exactly does it mean—and how might it affect you and your family?

Social distancing is a way of slowing down the spread of an infectious disease like COVID-19. It means limiting how we interact with other people to lower the chances of sharing the virus. 

For venues like schools, movie theaters and churches, social distancing may mean closing temporarily. For individuals, it means avoiding large groups of people and trying to stay at least 6 feet away from other individuals.

Why 6 feet? COVID-19 seems to be spread by droplets coughed or sneezed into the air. If you're close to someone coughing or sneezing, you might breathe in the droplets and become infected.

How to do it

We all need to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19. Here's how you can help:

  • Stay home, except for essential activities like grocery shopping or exercise.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face mask when you have to go out in public.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others, even when you wear a face covering.
  • Avoid large gatherings.
  • Limit visitors to your home.

Coping with the distance

Are you feeling stressed out by the coronavirus situation? Try some of these tips to help relax and cope with all that's happening:

  • Stay connected with family and friends via phone, email, video chat, text messaging or social media.
  • Try taking deep breaths, stretching or engaging in activities you enjoy like hobbies or reading.
  • Talk about your experiences and feelings with loved ones and friends, if that's helpful.
  • Do your best to maintain a sense of hope and to stay positive. Consider keeping a journal where you can write down things you are grateful for or that are going well.

You can stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news and recommendations by checking in with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reviewed 5/27/2020

Related stories