Posted on: March 20, 2020 at 9:57 pm
Last updated: March 20, 2020 at 9:58 pm

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread throughout the world, governments in Asia, Italy, and now North America are enacting increasingly strict laws preventing citizens from gathering in groups, and even leaving their homes. 

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These almost draconian measures are being put in place to enforce social distancing in order to reduce the spread of disease.

For those who have not witnessed first-hand how devastating the coronavirus can be, these governments’ travel bans and mandatory quarantines may seem like a harsh over-reaction. One hospitalized Ohio man, however, is begging people to listen to health authorities and stay away from each other.

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Kevin Harris’ Story

On March second, Kevin Harris developed a small cough. Within twenty-four hours, he had become so sick he thought he was going to die.

The 55-year-old father of four was admitted to the hospital on March 8, and tested positive for the novel coronavirus on March 11, officially making him the fifth case of the virus in Ohio [1].

Harris appeared in a Skype interview from his hospital bed at Mercy Health St. Joseph Warren Hospital with an oxygen tube in his nose, telling the reporter how horrible he felt [2].

During the 35-minute interview, he repeatedly stressed the importance of social distancing and isolation.

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“Do not go in the crowds. Do not shake hands. Stop hugging each other,” he said. “Wash your hands continually. Do not kiss on your kids. There are thousands of people carrying this virus around. They may never get it.” [1]

In a Facebook Live video filmed from his bed, he explained that he had not been to very many places for two weeks prior to becoming ill, but believes he came into contact with the virus at the Cleveland Clinic where he had gone for a check-up.

He described having the virus as feeling like he was “drowning on dry land”. He is also certain that he did not pass the virus on to anyone else since he remained house-bound for two weeks, but is begging people to listen to health officials and to stay home.

“People need to stay away from other people. They call it social distancing — I say just be anti-social. Just stay away from other people,” Harris said. “This thing is deathly dangerous. Treat everybody like it’s the zombie apocalypse. Don’t trust nothing anybody touches.” [1]

Read: 20 Coronavirus Myths Busted

The Importance of Social Distancing

Health officials, governments, and scientists have been asking citizens to stay away from each other so much since the coronavirus outbreak began, that the term “social distancing” has become the new buzzword of 2020.

This is for good reason since isolation is one of the only tools we have to prevent the spread of this new disease.

Drew Harris, an assistant professor in the Thomas Jefferson University College of Population Health in Philadelphia, explains that keeping people apart from each other is the only way to “flatten the curve”. He emphasizes, however, that social distancing may not actually prevent cases, but will limit the surge in the number of cases at one time, which will ease the burden on the healthcare system [3]. 

This is crucial because when the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed, it severely limits the ability for patients to receive the care they so desperately need, which in turn increases the mortality rate [3].

A 2007 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), that analyzed past pandemics, determined that cities that took early action during outbreaks by banning public gatherings and closing schools and other establishments experienced a significantly reduced mortality rate than those who were slower to respond [4].

What is the Difference Between Distancing, Isolation, and Quarantine?

While distancing simply refers to staying away from large crowds and avoiding close contact with others, such as hugs and hand-shaking, isolation and quarantine are more extreme measures.

Isolation is typically used when one person or group of people is believed to be infected with the disease. Those people are separated from healthy individuals to prevent the spread of disease.

Quarantine is a general term to describe the separation of a person or group who are known to have been exposed to a communicable disease but are not yet showing symptoms. In the case of COVID-19, the CDC has recommended a 14-day quarantine for anyone coming from high-risk areas who are more likely to have been infected to monitor for symptoms [5].

Related: How to Prep For a Quarantine

What are the Rules of Social Distancing

In short, social distancing is simple: avoid large groups of people. But what does that actually look like?

In most cases, this means that any place people tend to gather, such as concert venues, bars, museums, gyms, and restaurants, are off-limits. In the case of restaurants, the CDC recommends that people use the drive-thru, delivery, and pick-up options as opposed to dining in.

Once you have your food at home, you should remove it from the containers, throw them out, and then wash your hands thoroughly before eating.

It is also important for everyone to stay away from nursing homes, retirement homes, and long-term care facilities because older populations are at the highest risk for developing a deadly case of the virus. This is true even for young, healthy people because there is likely a large percentage of people who are carrying the virus but are asymptomatic.

Experts recommend that instead, you call your older friends and relatives on the phone to keep in touch without putting their lives at risk.

The CDC is also recommending that you avoid all social visits for the time being. That includes scheduling play-dates for your kids and their friends, inviting friends over for dinner, or engaging in any activity where you will be less than six feet apart from others. Instead, experts are encouraging people to use technology to their advantage, and have “virtual visits” with friends and family.

During this time, the CDC is also recommending you either cancel or reschedule all non-essential travel, doctor’s visits, and any other outing that can wait until a later date [6].

Having to cancel plans and stay in can be challenging both mentally and emotionally, and in some cases physically, too, but it is life-saving. Social isolation is the only way we as a society are going to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and in the encouraging words of Kevin Harris,

“Don’t be scared. You can live through this. But you’ve got to start taking care of yourself.” [1]

Keep Reading: What Do You Need to Buy During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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