Social... er... Physical Distancing?!

Published Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Social... er... Physical Distancing?!

By Lynda Fraser, Health Promotion Planner, Thunder Bay District Health Unit

We’re learning a lot these days, aren’t we? The current COVID-19 situation is expanding our collective vocabulary with all kinds of new terms that we may not have heard before, like “flattening the curve”, “asymptomatic”, and most important of them all, “social distancing.”

Understandably, this idea of “social distancing” isn’t easy to wrap our minds around – not only because it’s new to daily headlines, but because the two words together are a bit of an oxymoron. A what?? Another new term? My high school English teacher, Mrs. Delong, would hopefully be impressed that I still remember this – an oxymoron happens where two terms seem to oppose one another. Think of “jumbo shrimp”, “original copy” and “grow smaller,” for example.

The word “social” implies relating to a group. Yet, “distance” means apart. How can you be together and apart at the same time? Yes, it is confusing!

Behind the doors of public health, there is debate about whether “physical distancing” is a better phrase. Now, we are starting to see either or both terms being used. Regardless of how it’s presented, the meaning is still the same: Keep a 2 metre space between yourself and other people.

Yes, this is hard. Yes, this is inconvenient. But, with no vaccine and no effective treatment for COVID-19, prevention truly is our best weapon against the stealthy spread of this disease. We are all on the front lines here folks. We are all on a global mission to starve this enemy from existence. The sooner we accomplish this, the sooner we can be released from “Corona-captivity” – that's right, a new term I just made up (feel free to use it!)!

So, what’s our next move? Think ahead and be strategic:

  1. Definitely don’t expose yourself to our invisible foe. Avoid all gatherings, parties and playdates (sorry kids!).

  2. Venture out only when you must and be cautious when you do. Make only essential trips to places like pharmacies, grocery stores, and food outlets. Practice essential hand hygiene (frequent washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer), cough etiquette and cleaning. Always maintain a 2 metre gap from other people as much as possible.

  3. Stay home. Enjoy reading books, cooking, taking virtual tours of museums, cleaning closets, online yoga, or crafts. We all have a list of things that we say we’ll get to “some day”. Well, the day has come. Try to take advantage of this time.

One of the main questions we’re getting is, can I go outside? The answer is a big “YES-BUT-IF”. YES, sit on your balcony or stroll around the yard, or go for a walk or a hike, BUT if you encounter anyone, remember to keep that important 2 metre distance. IF you start to experience a fever and/or new or worsening cough, stay indoors and do the online self-assessment available here: .

Bear in mind that the tactics are different for those who have been instructed to “self-isolate." For clarity on what exactly this means, please check out: .
At this time, we are all being asked to respond to the call of duty and do our very best to keep a 2 metre space from others. Ignoring this plea from health and government officials puts our loved ones, our front-line essential service workers and, well, essentially everyone, at risk. Please be a responsible citizen and do your part.

While we are all adjusting to this awkward new normal, remember that ‘social distance’ does not need to be lonely. Humans are naturally social creatures and now, more than ever, we need each other to cope through these stressful times. Lucky for us, we have an arsenal of means to stay connected – whether that’s digitally, or through old-fashioned phone calls, or something else. It’s actually kind of neat to see the creative ways that people around the world are using to support each other, showing that while we may be distant, we are all in this together. ;)


Back to Latest News