What does social distancing mean in Sandpoint?

March 16, 2020 1:56 PM

There is much talk on social media and the news about the importance of social distancing to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but I have yet to see a good description of what that means for every day life.

Here are a few pointers about how to integrate the ideas into our local community so we can keep ourselves safe, our older loved ones safe to slow the spread of the disease so the local healthcare system is not overwhelmed. This will not be forever, and the stronger we can stick together as a community to limit the spread of the virus, the shorter time it will be needed. I recommend starting today and plan on sticking to it for two weeks for a start and much more will be known at that point.

Start with the concept in mind that you may be infected and act like you don’t want to spread it to others.

• Stay away from public locations and groups:

• No church. It is a good time to read and talk on the phone.

• No gym or athletic club- run or walk outside, or ride a bike, you can even go with a friend just stay 6 feet away and drive separately to the trailhead or park.

• No restaurants. It’s a good time to pay with a credit card to limit passing cash and get take-out to bring home.

• Work from home and teleconference. Limit crowded work environments and in-person meetings. Work can still go on but it needs to take a different twist.

• Buy groceries for a week at a time. Limit your trips to the store; leave your kids at home when you are shopping. Wash your hands when you head out and wipe your cart, then wash again once you get home. Try using the curbside pick up options Super 1 Foods, Yoke’s, and Safeway all offer this option — especially if you have a cough or might be sick.

• Cancel birthday parties and play dates. Instead, enjoy some family time and online movies

• Talk to older family members over 50 by phone, not in person.

If you are a restaurant, close your tables and convert to take-out only. This has already happened in New York.

If you are a business owner, encourage people to stay home when sick now more than ever, and if possible let people work from home. If you are a construction company use smaller crews of two or three and keep workers farther apart. Have people drive separately to the job sites.

The virus can spread on droplets from your mouth and from there by hand contact so fist bump or even better elbow tap instead of shaking hands. Hugs may transfer droplets from one shirt to another person’s shirt so avoid hugs and kisses.

In Singapore, where they have controlled the spread well, people are wiping off their shoes, washing hands and changing clothes when they come home. This will decrease any spread of droplets from clothes to your hands and then eyes and mouth. I make a practice of showering as well right away to wash off any droplets in my hair or face after finishing my day at the hospital. This reduces the chance of touching my hair and then my face or mouth and catching the virus.

If schools are canceled you may need to coordinate childcare with friends. Try and keep this a small group that has the same families involved, and coordinate with coworkers that have similar employment exposure. If you work at the hospital, coordinate with other hospital workers so when people get sick the virus will get stuck in groups.

These are all doable actions, and small steps make a big difference to slow the spread. Life does not have to end in anyway but we will need to adapt and adjust our daily habits. Don’t forget to wash your hands often and thoroughly.

Dr. Hans Hurt is an emergency medicine physician in Bonner County.