Non-contact greetings are best during an epidemic. [Credit: Compilation by Nancy R. Gough, BioSerendipity, LLC using icons from Smashicons from]

Social Distancing Key to Slowing COVID-19 Spread

15 steps you can take to limit catching or spreading the coronavirus

When a new infectious virus with serious or fatal symptoms is introduced into society, it will spread through the population. The speed of spread is influenced by several factors, including how quickly infected people contact non-infected people. Social distancing is one way to reduce the speed of the spread of the infection through the population and thus avoid overwhelming the medical system. This may not reduce the total number of people who become infected, but social distancing can help ensure that all of those who require treatment will be able to receive it.

Without social distancing, not only will patients infected with the virus not receive the treatment that they need, but other patients in need of hospital care for other conditions will be placed in jeopardy as the medical systems become overwhelmed. Government-enforced quarantines become the next step.

Social distancing slows spread of infection to keep peak number of cases below the capacity of the medical system. [Credit: Nancy R. Gough, BioSerendipity, LLC; This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.]

So what exactly is social distancing? Basically, it is avoiding or limiting interactions with other people.

  • Stay home as much as practical, limit contact with people when outside the home, and avoid crowded spaces
  • Avoid hugging or kissing or shaking hands when greeting people who do not live with you or who do but returned from outside the house and have yet to wash their hands
  • Avoid gatherings where the space between people will be less than 3 feet
  • Avoid eating in restaurants, going to crowded bars, attending church services, commuting on public transportation during peak crowded hours
  • Wash hands after being outside of the house and before touching places in your home
  • Wash hand towels frequently or switch to disposable paper towels
  • Try to avoid touching your face when outside of the home

At work

  • Teleconference as much as possible
  • Use large meeting rooms for in-person meetings, sit >3 feet apart, don’t shake hands
  • Avoid unnecessary travel
  • Avoid socializing in small spaces where people will be closer than 3 feet
  • Avoid eating in crowded lunch rooms or restaurants, bring your lunch to work
  • If you use public transportation or shared computers, carry sanitizing wipes and clean the surface you will touch
  • Use hand sanitizer after touching a shared surface or wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching a shared surface
  • If you handle money or payments from customers, use hand sanitizer frequently and avoid touching your face

En Español: Guardar la distancia social resulta clave para ralentizar la propagación del COVID-19


Portugues: Distância social pode salvar a sua vida ou a de outras pessoas

Ph.D. scientist with a passion for scientific communication and > 20 years editorial experience

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