Escapes from social distancing are not worth the risk

Install garden chairs in entrances for socially distant neighborhood parties. Talk to neighbors from the balconies of buildings. Sit in a parking lot to talk from one car to another, parking vehicles two meters from each other.
People are finding innovative ways to continue socializing with their friends and neighbors while trying to respect the physical distancing measures during the COVID-19 epidemic.

While this may seem harmless enough, some experts say these loopholes in social distancing are probably not worth the risk.

“As humans, we will always find ways to push the boundaries, to understand how we can get around problems,” said microbiologist Jason Kindrachuk in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.

“But this is where, when it comes to the public message, we have to keep reiterating the importance of social distancing, the reason why we do it.”

“And how many risks are we willing to take that could potentially cause the spread of this virus?”

The new coronavirus is transmitted by respiratory droplets, which are released into the air when infected people breathe, speak, sneeze, or cough. The droplets usually move about two meters before they hit the ground, said Kindrachuk.

This means that keeping a safe distance, at least two meters or six feet from someone else, is one of the most effective methods we have to stop the spread.

Kindrachuk, who is also an assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, said maintaining a distance of two meters while trying to socialize can be easier in some cases – like talking to a neighbor. from your terrace with a fence serving as a physical barrier.

However, when you are outside with nothing between you and the person you are socializing with, the barrier becomes much easier to blur.

“If you are in two entrances, are you really within six feet of each other?” Are you going to take as many precautions, or are you going to start to see some of your concerns diminish, because you become comfortable? ”Asks Mr. Kindrachuk. “If you are in this group, are you sure that each person maintains this physical distance?”

“Because we are dealing with a virus that is transmitted invisibly, right? And potentially by people who may not show signs of infection. ”

Dr. Gerald Evans, a doctor and chair of the infectious disease division at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, believes that some social loopholes can be safe, provided the distance is effectively maintained.

He added that having these activities outdoors, where there is “a huge dilution effect that disperses the droplet particles,” can also help limit the spread of the virus.

“Inside, it’s a different story,” said Evans. “And clearly, if someone were sick, it would be a totally different story too.”

Mr Evans noted that extra care should still be taken into account when trying to stay away while socializing outdoors, such as making sure that everything around you – a chair, a cooler, a glass – also stays two meters from any other person.

“What you can’t do is share anything,” said Evans. “If you were sitting on a garden chair and you were about two or three meters from your neighbor, the droplet effect is not there. “But if you have a glass in your hand with lemonade or beer in it, you certainly don’t want this object to be near your neighbors because yes, these objects can also be contaminated by these droplets.”

Infectious disease expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch of the University Health Network in Toronto said it was unwise to try to find some sort of escape from social distancing.

He noted that public health messages from federal, provincial and municipal authorities in Canada all point in the same direction, and that some cities around the world are now fining those who do not follow social distancing.

“What you can and cannot do is very clear,” says Bogoch. “You can go out for exercise and go walk the dog, but if not, stay away. Stay at home. ”

“Maybe (these behaviors) are not technically wrong, but it is certainly not in the spirit of what we should be doing.”

Kindrachuk points out that even something like dropping off pastries or having a homemade meal at a friend’s door could be dangerous.

Staying away and limiting the number of surfaces affected by multiple people is the best approach, he said.

“I think the medical and scientific community as a whole wants people to understand and realize why physical distance is so important, especially because we don’t have a vaccine,” said Kindrachuk. “Our only real possibility of curbing the transmission of this virus is to reduce its ability to spread from one person to another.”

“If we want this to be completely contained, we must do everything in our power to prevent the virus from spreading.”

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