What is ‘social distancing’? How do I handle it?

With health officials across the country asking that we all practice ‘social distancing,’ the direction leaves many asking what that even means.

Updated Jun 24, 2020

By Barrett White

What is social distancing, and what’s the difference between that and going into quarantine?

Social distancing is a measure taken by the public to restrict when and where people may gather in groups in order to stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19. Social distancing includes limiting large groups of people coming together, closing buildings, and canceling events.

It is possible to carry the virus and be infectious, but not know that you have it because you’re not yet exhibiting symptoms. This is more likely to happen with a young, healthy person who believes that they are not sick, or not in danger because they think, “If I do get it, I will easily recover.”

If someone is carrying COVID-19 and is infectious, they run the risk of passing it on to someone with a weak immune system, such as the elderly and those with an immunodeficiency, such as someone living with HIV. So though this person may be healthy and could probably fight off their COVID-19 infection easily, it could be deadly for those who they pass it onto.

This is why social distancing is important, both for those who are infected and may not yet know it, and for those who are at risk of having trouble fighting it off.


So, how does someone practice social distancing?

Stay home – mostly. If you’re able to, stay home. That’s the easiest way to avoid others until COVID-19 is under control. But you may ask…

Do I have to stay at home? No. Unless you have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been ordered by a physician to quarantine at home, you do not have to stay at home. However, practice proper distance if and when you leave the house. It is perfectly fine to go grocery shopping for essentials, walk the dog, or get a jog and body weight workout in at a local park. Also wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends covering your mouth and nose with a cloth mask when around others.

What can I do with this free time? As mentioned above:

  • Consider taking a walk around the neighborhood. It can be easy to get antsy staying in your home, especially if you live alone. Some sunlight and physical activity will do you good.
  • Organize a group chat with your friends or family. Whether you choose to set up a texting group chat or a video chat, keeping contact with your core group from a distance will easily help pass the time.
  • Have a Netflix account? Host a movie party! From a distance, that is. Netflix has a function called Netflix Party, in which you and your friends can join a group and watch a film together, each of you able to post comments for each other to see, and, if one of you needs a bathroom break? A universal pause button for the group.
  • Utilize social media. Check out what everyone is doing online: You may be surprised to find Broadway actors performing on Instagram Live, musicians holding free streaming concerts from their living rooms, and writers holding readings.
  • Get a workout in. Endorphins are your friend! Get that natural high with a good sweat. But with gyms closing due to the shut-down, how do you get active if you don’t feel like going for a run? The app FitBod offers a free trial and can be set to create a full bodyweight workout for you (memberships are also available, should you choose). The be.come project, a progressive bodyweight fitness app created by celebrity instructor Bethany C. Meyers, is running a social distancing special: Those who can afford it may purchase extra memberships for the app to suspend, to be donated to those who cannot afford memberships themselves. Inquire with the be.come project to donate a membership, or to claim a donated one. For those “in the middle,” they are offering discounted memberships.

I’m out of work – what do I do? Many people have unfortunately lost their jobs due to these necessary precautions (some temporarily, some not). For those dealing with income loss during this time, seek out assistance programs that can help you make ends meet.

How do I support my favorite local restaurants and shops if I’m not allowed to dine or shop there? Local businesses that have had to shut their doors do need your support, and it’s terrific that this concern is on people’s minds. To support your local small businesses – but practice social distancing – consider purchasing a gift card. Your dollars can still go toward the business, but you can use the card later for a nice dinner or shopping spree when the social distancing advisory is lifted.


If you believe you are experiencing the flu-like symptoms associated with COVID-19, call your physician and follow their instruction. To prevent the possibility of community spread, it is advised that you call ahead to describe your symptoms before going to your clinic in person.

Call in to Legacy at (832) 548-5000 before visiting in person if you would like to discuss your symptoms. To read more about Legacy’s response to COVID-19, see our blog here.