Campus Life / Health / National / Opinion & Editorial

College students should take social distancing seriously

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP)

by Halle Ellis

Many ask, what is social distancing and why is it so important during this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? Social distancing is a public health measure that’s implemented during highly contagious outbreaks. It often involves health officials restricting large public gatherings, such as music festivals; closing certain buildings, such as schools and libraries; and canceling events in order to slow the spread of a virus or disease.

This virus can easily spread through sneezing and coughing, the World Health Organization reports. When a person sneezes or coughs, they expel tiny liquid droplets that you might breathe. As the COVID-19 outbreak progresses, everyone from lawmakers to the general public is encouraged to practice social distancing. Limiting social contact is a positive effort to lessen the spread of the virus by person to person transmission.

So far, many people seem resistant to the idea of social distancing. Just look at the early celebrations of Saint Patrick’s Day that occurred this past weekend and the spring break activities that are still taking place despite the call for social distancing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It is imperative that people, including college students now free from the constraints of the classroom, are serious about adopting the practice of social distancing. It really is the least we can do to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The goal of social distancing is to limit contact between people by altering one’s behavior. Avoiding large gatherings and choosing to work from home are both examples of practicing social distancing.

A common misconception seems to be that social distancing is the same as isolation or quarantine. In reality, these are two additional measures of preventing the spread of COVID-19, and they are more extreme than social distancing, as they enforce restrictions on location and movement. Social isolation is for those who may have COVID-19, or have met someone who has (or thinks they might have) COVID-19. They may need to stay indoors (not go out) for 14 days.

We know that the idea of social distancing is not ideal, considering college students are returning from spring break and haven’t seen some of their friends in a week or more. Some students traveled during spring break, domestically and abroad, possibly putting them at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. This is why social distancing is imperative.

Maintaining social distance will help “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 outbreak, thus keeping the number of cases at a level that health care providers can manage, ensuring better care for any infected people. By complying with social distancing guidelines, college students, as well as the rest of the population, can do their part in slowing the spread of this pandemic.