Defining COVID-19 Terms: Social Distancing

April 3, 2020


Elizabeth (Izzy) Montgomery, MPA
Policy Analyst

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In this installment in our series explaining key terms and phrases used by public health officials in discussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the term “social distancing.”

Social distancing is intentionally increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Health officials recommend keeping 6 feet of separation between you and other people when you go out in public during the COVID-19 pandemic, to lessen your chances of getting or transmitting the disease.

Social-distancing efforts have significantly impacted our way of life, causing societal disruptions such as event cancellations, school closures, and adoption of work-from-home strategies. However, social distancing at the individual level is just as important. The Trump administration has issued guidelines urging against gatherings of 10 or more people to adhere to social distancing. In our everyday lives, this means forgoing activities such as large family gatherings, social visits with friends, and playdates.

In Arkansas, state and local leaders have called for social distancing as a way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. On March 26, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people in any confined or outdoor space, with exceptions for workplaces and churches. In Little Rock, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has also instituted a nightly curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., along with a youth daytime curfew from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Governors of a majority of states have taken more extreme measures, instituting stay-at-home orders after less stringent directives failed to adequately incentivize social distancing and curb the spread of COVID-19. Stay-at-home orders vary in application by state, but generally they require individuals to stay at home unless they are conducting essential business, such as going to a grocery store or pharmacy. Among surrounding states, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee have instituted statewide stay-at-home orders.

You can read more about the pandemic on ACHI’s COVID-19 page.

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