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Inside Beat

What social distancing and flattening the curve really means

"Social distancing" and "flattening the curve" are phrases that have been used during our spring break, as the N.J. government encouraged self-quarantine measures.  – Photo by Kelly Carmack

It’s hard to remember a time before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). I mean, after just 5 minutes of scrolling on social media, you’ll probably come across dozens of posts by celebrities, meme accounts, your friends and more all referencing the disease in one way or another. The information overload can be overwhelming — I know I’ve felt that way over the last few days. But if there’s one piece of information you should definitely take with you right now, it’s that you should be social distancing. 

Maybe you’ve seen a couple posts talking about it, maybe you’re practicing it right now or maybe you’re ignoring the advice and continuing with life as usual. But let’s explore why social distancing could be the key to saving as many people as possible and the best way to handle this virus before it gets worse.

Right now, the coronavirus is spreading through the United States at exponential rates. Even in New Jersey the cases continue to jump by hundreds overnight. While this is partly due to an increase in available testing, it also doesn’t surprise experts that the number of positive cases are going up because many people are still leaving their homes and hanging out in groups. 

Social distancing can help “flatten the curve” when it comes to the increase of cases, according to The Washington Post. The curve represents how many people get sick overtime. If no action is taken to social distance or isolate, the number of sick people will outnumber the healthy and reach a peak. 

We must remember that at this peak, it will be hard to do anything but wait for people to recover. Until they fully recover, they’re contagious. Our hospitals will be overcrowded, our resources will be limited and, as we’ve seen, not everyone will recover. But, if we work to flatten the curve, we can ensure that hospitals don’t have to make tough decisions on who to treat, less people will be infected all at once and people will have the chance to recover before they spread it to more people.

Our ultimate goal is to flatten the curve because experts say that the virus cannot even be contained completely by quarantine. Each person must do their part to limit contact with others and their movement, even if they don’t know whether they're sick. Yes, this means even hanging out with a few friends can be dangerous as we don’t have access to enough testing to actually know who is sick and who isn’t! 

This plays into another thing I’m sure we’ve all heard — only the elderly are affected by the coronavirus. While it is true that the elderly are more likely to experience the extreme symptoms or pass away once they have the virus, people of all ages can contract it and spread it. If you have it, you could spread it to someone who is old or someone who lives with their grandparents. Also, just because you are young doesn’t mean you won’t experience the symptoms, which isn't fun for anyone of any age!

Social distancing is our best bet and keeping as many people healthy as possible. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) has announced a “Stay-at-Home” executive order which will greatly contribute to limiting socialization as it bans large social gatherings. It only makes restaurants available for takeout and delivery and has closed entertainment facilities like gyms and movie theaters. 

Even though this is definitely a step in the right direction, we must remember that many people like grocery store employees, sanitation workers and healthcare professionals must still leave their homes to report to work. If you have the choice to stay home, you are not only protecting yourself and your family, but you’re flattening the curve by not risking infecting the people who don’t have the choice to stay at home. 

I know these are scary times and things feel like they’re changing too fast to be real. But if we all make an effort together, the spread of the coronavirus can slow down, ultimately allowing people to recover before they spread it to someone new. It’s difficult now to go without seeing people or without going out in public places, but in the long run it will be the very thing that makes it possible to return to regular life as soon as possible. 

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