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Social Distancing to Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus

Social distancing means keeping 6 feet of space between people to help prevent the spread of illness. This illustration shows two characters on a sidewalk with a dotted line indicating 6 feet of distance.

Keeping a physical distance of 6 feet can help stop the spread of coronavirus.

What Is Social Distancing?

Social distancing means keeping distance or space between people to help prevent the spread of illness.

To help slow the spread and reduce your risk of COVID-19, stay at least 6 feet away from others. Keeping physical distance is important, even if you are not sick.

Social distancing is just one of the ways to protect yourself and your family.

  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19. In the United States, anyone over age 5 can now get a safe and effective vaccine.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Avoid public places like stores, gyms, movie theatres, and restaurants as much as possible.
  • Do not meet in large groups at school, church, or work.
  • Limit public transportation. Keep a safe distance between yourself and fellow passengers.
  • Limit contact with anyone who does not live at your house, including friends and other family.
  • Wash your hands often, especially after being in public places. Use soap and water, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Social distancing is especially important for cancer patients and others who have weak immune systems. Read more about COVID-19 in Children with Cancer.

How Do I Explain Social Distancing to Kids?

Explain that the most effective way to keep from getting sick, or from passing germs onto someone else, is to keep a safe distance away from other people.

Germs are very tiny so we can’t see them. A cough or sneeze can spread germs through the air for up to 6 feet. They can also live on surfaces like a doorknob or phone. That is why we need to be extra safe: stay a safe distance from others, wash hands often, and cover our coughs and sneezes.

Get more tips on talking to your child about coronavirus and COVID-19.

Science for Kids: Ideas to Talk About Social Distancing

spray icon

Use a fine mist spray bottle to talk about respiratory droplets and how germs spread through coughs or sneezes.

 
tape measure icon

Estimate distance. Have a contest to see who can mark 6 feet the best. Talk about what that means in everyday life.

 
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Discuss the importance of personal space. You might even identify potential “space invaders” and when it might be hard to stay away from others. Come up with ideas to help. Also, discuss what to say to friends who might not have the same “rules” for playdates.

 
When a person who has the coronavirus coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to 6 feet.

When a person who has the coronavirus coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to 6 feet.

Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation – What Is the Difference?

Social distancing during COVID-19

Social distancing means limiting close contact between yourself and others in your community, even if you are not sick or at risk. This is a voluntary practice to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Quarantine during COVID-19

Quarantine or self-quarantine means staying at home and avoiding contact with others because you are at risk for COVID-19 due to possible exposure.

If you are in quarantine, you should take steps to keep from passing illness on to others in your home:

  • Wash hands regularly.
  • Do not share household items.
  • Sleep in a separate bedroom.
  • Use a separate bathroom.

Quarantine may also be ordered by health departments or federal or state officials. Learn more about the current quarantine guidelines.

Isolation during COVID-19

Isolation means that you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and need to be extra careful to avoid spreading the virus to others.

Isolation may occur at home or in the hospital. Caregivers should wear protective gear to lower risk of becoming infected.

Learn more about what to do if you have symptoms and how to care for someone who is sick.


Reviewed: December 2021