Q & A:

What is social distancing?

COVID-19 is spread from person to person, typically through respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze but also through close contact with infected individuals. People may also spread the virus before they show any symptoms. That’s why we need to stop the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing.

Steven Choi, MD, FAAP, vice president and chief quality officer for Yale New Haven Health and Yale School of Medicine, said there are multiple ways to practice social distancing. Two key components to social distancing are to limit the number of people who gather together and to make sure there’s enough space between those individuals.

What if I'm not showing any symptoms?

Some states, and now Connecticut, have already imposed restrictions on public spaces including movie theaters, gyms, restaurants and bars. Even if you feel healthy, Dr. Choi said you should avoid small social gatherings as well, even if it’s with just a few friends. 

“The best practice is to isolate as much as possible because you don’t know where that friend has traveled to or to whom they have been exposed ” Dr. Choi said.

Can kids play with their friends?

It might be safer playing outdoors rather than in a large indoor area, like a school gym. But it’s also difficult to measure the risk of playing outdoors when those locations are also crowded with other adults and children. The safest bet for parents is to avoid playdates and activities with other families during this time when the risk of an unprecedented outbreak is highest.

What is community transmission?

Community transmission occurs when a disease, such as COVID-19, is transmitted within and throughout a community, rather than just from a high-risk area or population. For example, instead of getting the illness by traveling to China or Italy, you can become infected now from virtually anywhere in the U.S. Dr. Choi said working at the call center since its opening last week, he’s witnessed the phenomenon of community transmission in Connecticut.

I keep hearing the term “flatten the curve.” What does that mean?

The number of COVID-19 cases is expected to go up, resulting in a sharp rise if mapped out over time. When there’s an overwhelming surge of patients to hospitals during a pandemic, we can help “flatten the curve” by slowing down the spread of cases and staggering the number of patients who need acute hospital care over time. This is why social distancing is so important now.  It’s our best strategy for mitigation.

“There’s only so much that we can do within our hospitals as healthcare providers to mitigate an outbreak. This is a moment where the public must take proper measures. Be responsible and proactive in order to avoid an unprecedented surge that our hospitals across this state and nation will not be able to handle,” Dr. Choi said. “Social distancing, hand hygiene, responsible traveling and social awareness is our best strategy.”




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How important is testing?

Testing is absolutely critical for this battle. Without testing, our containment and mitigation strategies will be compromised. Dr. Choi said we’re not where we want or need to be in terms of testing right now. But we also have specific guidelines for testing and we need to adhere to those as well, especially while testing is still limited. Identifying those who are at greatest risk of transmission can help public health officials focus on containment strategies, particularly for high-risk areas and communities such as nursing homes.

What should you do if someone in your home gets sick?

The CDC says most people who contract the virus can recover at home. But everyone should monitor themselves for worsening symptoms. Precautions should be taken to keep other family members safe. The person who is sick should use a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible. Surfaces and other common household areas should be disinfected while wearing disposable gloves. They will also need to self-isolate for at least 14 days and should continue to self-isolate as long as they’re experiencing symptoms.