As the coronavirus spreads worldwide and with the first confirmed death in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have indicated that it is not a matter of if the Coronavirus becomes an outbreak in the United States, but when: “It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur (source CDC.gov). The CDC is urging community preparedness and a prepared outbreak response. In case of a domestic outbreak they recommend “social distancing”. But what exactly is “social distancing” and how does online therapy factor in?
Social distancing is a term used to describe actions taken by public health officials to stop or decelerate the spread of a highly contagious disease such as the Coronavirus. During the 1957-58 flu pandemic, the flu spread rapidly following large public gatherings. In addition, the highest incidence rates were seen in school-aged children, because of their close contact in crowded settings. Health experts believe that avoiding crowds of people will be important in slowing the spread of pandemic. The premise behind social distancing is that it restricts when, where and how many people gather which then diminished the likelihood of transmitting germs.
Social distancing also includes physical distancing in the workplace and other community areas you regularly frequent. The CDC is recommending businesses, state and other local agencies make contingency plans that include teleworking or distance options. Schools or universities may plan to schedule online classes or utilize distance or web-based learning.
How do I practice social distancing?
Social distancing may be a viable alternative for the general public to avoid the pandemic influenza infection until a vaccine becomes available. Below, in order of potential effectiveness, are various aspects of SD suggestions:
- Limit exposure to other people within six feet unless you know their health condition.
- Minimize exposure to enclosed crowded spaces such as movie theaters, libraries, grocery stores, schools, malls, etc.
- Use personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks, if you must get within six feet of anyone outside your immediate family or if you must go into an enclosed crowded space. It should be noted that there is limited information on the use of surgical masks for the control of a pandemic in settings where there is no identified source of infection.
- Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds after touching any item that may have been touched by others, or use disposable gloves (see proper hand washing technique).
- Refrain from touching your hands to your face, eyes, nose or mouth.
- If you sneeze or cough do so into a tissue and then dispose of the tissue. If a tissue is unavailable, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow.
Distance options and healthcare
As you, your family and your workplace prepare an outbreak response, consider how distance or web-based practices can factor into your daily life. If you have a college student, check to see if their classes can be accessed online or if their college or university offers web-based options. Ask your employer if they offer a work-at-home program. Check the technological requirements and what you will need to access your systems from your home. Contact your health insurance company and enquire about telemental services-most major health insurance providers offer web-based health services such as online nursing, nurse practitioner and physician visits. If you are currently in counseling or plan to start counseling soon you may want to proactively consider online therapy. Some clinicians offer occasional online sessions and other therapy practices like Therapy Lady are exclusively online and are already ready to help walk you through the transition.