Novel Distancing - the new normal



"This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)."


The phrase "social distancing" is now in everyone's vocabulary. Caroline tells me that the phrase is troubling to her, because social interactions are critical to our well-being, and people should avoid social isolation. In the Age of COVID-19, the trick is to socialize safely.  I think we will call it novel distancing... a new normal of distancing.  Socialize, yes.  But watch your spacing!

In this televised briefing by DC Mayor Bowser, her coronavirus response team is spread out to maintain a 6 foot buffer between individuals.

Novel distancing can be defined as increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. It should have no relationship to the degree of socialization between people.  For COVID-19, the prescribed distance is 6 feet, although I came across a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of only 3 feet!  The average arm length for an adult male is about 25 inches, and probably a tad less for women.  So in novel distancing, not only should you not be able to touch another person, but neither of you should be able to touch each other with your arms extended.  In other words, keep your hands to yourself.

By the way, WHO is no longer using the phrase "social distancing" for similar reasons.  Instead, they are using "physical distancing."  "We’re changing to say ‘physical distance,’ and that’s on purpose because we want people to still remain connected," said WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove in the organization’s March 20 daily press briefing.

As a runner, I tend to pass people with a "good morning" and I often get a returned smile, if not a reply.  Something that I am noticing in the Age of COVID-19 is that fewer people give me eye contact.  This is true running, walking, and eerily, shopping in the grocery store.  Novel distancing is transcending actual distance.  It seems to be including avoidance of any form of face-to-face communication.  And that shouldn't happen.

I came across this recommendation from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, promoting their trails in the Age of COVID-19: "Be kind, say hi. The risk of COVID-19 is not at all connected with race, ethnicity, or nationality. Blaming others will not help fight the illness. Do your part to be kind, say hi or wave hello, respect your fellow humans when you are out on the trail in these challenging times. Share smiles!"

By myself, running on the Bonneville Shoreline trail in Logan.  Yes, that's snow in the background!  I suspect the trails will become more crowded as the weather improves.



As I write this, Vice President Pence was reporting that we are 12 days into the "15 days to slow the spread" program.  Ironically, I just received a postcard 2 days ago from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, informing me of the coronavirus prevention guidelines.  So, does this mean I only have 3 days left?!  Yay!  Well, this isn't going to happen.  In Utah, Summit County (Park City) has issued a stay at home order through May 1.  Governor Gary Herbert released a "Stay Safe, Stay Home" directive for the state of Utah further emphasizing the urgency of novel distancing and staying home.  Today, the Bear River Health Department ordered all gyms, recreation areas, and other recreational gathering spaces and events to close.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. I read today that he said this: "(W)hen people ask me how long is this going to go on, we don't know. If you look at the pattern, things are not going to turn around in two weeks. I mean, it's just not going to happen. We're in a several-week, I guess, fight, if you want to call it that. At best."

So, expect novel distancing to continue for weeks, and probably months.  It will be, at least for the short term, the new normal.


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