The Importance of Social Distancing

This article was originally published on November 8, 2020.

As summer is rapidly approaching, it is important to make sure that people are still following social distancing guidelines. Along with 8 other states, Texas has seen a spike of COVID-19 cases ever since the economy reopened on May 1. Although most public places are only allowed to seat 50% of their capacity, a lack of social distancing has led to an increase in new coronavirus cases. Some say that the sharp increase in cases is because more testing is occurring, but many believe it is due to the lack of social distancing.

The lockdown started in Texas on March 31 when Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA 14, a lenient stay-at-home order for Texans. When the lockdown began, Texas only had a total of around 2000 cases and less than 100 deaths. It was held out for around a month; the cases were kept under control, and the nation praised Texas for handling the situation so well.

However, as of May 25, Texas has 55,897 cases of COVID-19 with a total of 1,529 deaths. In fact, Texas has the seventh-highest number of cases in the United States. So how did the pandemic get so bad? The answer is quite simple. People are not following the proper social distancing guidelines.

According to the CDC, people should self-quarantine in their homes and limit person-to-person contact. In the scenario that someone needs to go outside, they should wear a mask and wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds when they reach their homes. These measures are in place because the novel coronavirus is highly contagious. After all, it spreads through respiratory droplets. If people do not practice social distancing, more people will die a preventable death, and hospitals will exhaust their resources.

In 1918, the world was hit was a devastating pandemic similar to COVID-19 called the Spanish flu. It took the lives of around 50 million people globally, 675,000 of which belonged to the United States, and killed around 2.7% of the world’s population at the time. Two cities in the U.S. reacted very differently to the novel pandemic, and they saw very different results.

Philadelphia and St. Louis both saw the start of the disease. Shortly after the first case was declared, on September 28, Philadelphia hosted its “Liberty Loan” parade, attended by around 200,000 people. A few days later, hospitals became overwhelmed with patients and 2600 died right then. Through the winter, the city’s death rate rose to 748 per 100,000, and it lost a great number of its citizens.

St. Louis, on the other hand, closed down all schools, libraries, parks, and churches and staggered work shifts to minimize contact and control the spread. The citizens went into complete lockdown and maintained social distancing. This resulted in many lives being protected and the death rate only came to 358 per 100,000. Many health officials say St. Louis did a commendable job at “flattening the curve” and controlling the number of cases.

Even though the Spanish flu took place over 100 years ago, we can still learn from it. It showed us the power of social distancing and self-isolating. For example, New Zealand is a country that acted against COVID-19 early on. They placed a four-week lockdown on March 19, and since then, barely any cases have been reported. As of May 25, there have only been 1,154 confirmed cases, with only 27 of those being active. Meanwhile, the US has over 1.6 million cases of COVID-19.

Overall, social distancing is necessary to control the amount of COVID-19 cases in the world. If people can stop the spread of the disease, then innocent people won’t have to die. Attached below, we have created an infographic that explains the basics of social distancing. In the end of the day, the sooner people practice social distancing, the quicker the pandemic ends.