Social Distancing: How Far Should You Go

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The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, known as COVID-19, has caused many new phrases to enter our collective vocabulary. One we’re becoming familiar with is “social distancing” – a practice healthcare professionals and infectious disease experts say is paramount to preventing disease outbreaks.

“Social distancing reduces the spread of a contagious infections and diseases from person-to-person by reducing how many people we each come in contact with,” says Odaliz Abreu Lanfranco, M.D., an infectious disease expert with Henry Ford Health System.

This is especially necessary for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms. However, since some people may be carrying the disease but showing minimal symptoms or may think they have a common cold or allergies, we all need to practice social distancing for the greater good.

It sounds simple but, in our connected world, we are learning how complicated social distancing can be to enact.

Government and health officials continue to combine recommendations and mandatory restrictions, like school closings and the recent restaurant/bar restrictions enacted by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan. Many businesses and public places like libraries, theaters and museums have voluntarily closed their doors for the time being out of an abundance of caution.

Here are some basic recommendations that Dr. Abreu Lanfranco confirms we should all keep in mind, including activities to avoid, ones that can be done but with caution, and the many activities that are still considered safe to do.

(Please note: These are general guidelines based on current information and they will continue to evolve as the situation changes, so be sure to check websites like the Centers for Disease Control and the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services for the latest information and follow those recommendations.)

Activities To Avoid

The following activities and situations are some of the easiest ways COVID-19 transmission occurs, which is why many of these locations have already been closed or restrictions are in place:

  • Group gatherings
  • Playdates or sleepovers
  • Concerts or theater events
  • Sporting events
  • Crowded retail stores or malls
  • Crowded bars or restaurants
  • Non-essential workers in your home
  • Church services
  • Visiting nursing homes or hospitals 
  • Contact with sick people or people with symptoms
  • Workouts at gyms, fitness centers or studios
  • Casinos

Activities That Require Caution

These activities usually involve minimal social contact, but should only be done when necessary. In these instances, take precautions like keeping space between you and others (at least 6 feet away is the recommended minimum), avoiding those who are coughing or exhibiting signs of illness, wiping down surfaces with disinfectant wipes, and practicing good handwashing and/or hand sanitizing. 

  • Visiting the grocery store, food market or food pantry
  • Visiting the pharmacy
  • Getting take-out food
  • Travel (pay close attention to CDC restrictions/warnings)
  • Non-essential appointments (doctor, dental, salon, etc.)
  • Mass transit (if other transportation is not available)

If you fall under the high-risk category (older adults or people with chronic medical conditions or compromised immune systems) or if you are sick or experiencing a fever, cold or flu-like symptoms, you should avoid these activities. Try to find assistance from a family member, friend or neighbor.

Activities That Are Safe

While it feels like there are a lot of “don’ts” right now, it’s important for your mental health and well-being to remember that there are lots of activities that you can still safely do. They will help you and your family cope during this unprecedented time of social distancing.

  • Taking a walk or run
  • Going for a hike or bike ride
  • Practicing yoga
  • Doing yardwork
  • Playing in the yard with pets or kids
  • Reading a good book
  • Writing in a journal
  • Having a family game night
  • Video chatting with friends
  • Cooking or baking
  • Listening to music
  • Going for a drive
  • Calling to check on friends, loved ones and neighbors, especially the elderly
  • Meditating or doing breathing exercises
  • Coloring or working on a craft or art project
  • Playing an instrument
  • Watching concerts online
  • Taking online classes
  • Taking virtual tours through museums or zoos

The bottom line: We all need to stay informed of the latest recommendations and do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep ourselves and our community as healthy and safe as we can. Always err on the side of caution when making decisions about how much social distance to keep.


For up-to-date information about Henry Ford Health System’s response to the coronavirus, visit henryford.com/coronavirus.

To learn more about Henry Ford’s virtual care services, including virtual visits, MyChart messaging and other options for care, visit henryford.com/virtualcare.

Dr. Odaliz Abreu Lanfranco specializes in infectious diseases and sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Categories: FeelWell