We’ve just gotten used to the phrase “social distancing,” but it may already be time to move on. In a briefing on Friday, the World Health Organisation’s Maria Van Kerkhove endorsed a change in phrasing that’s starting to become more common: Instead of social distancing, we need to practice “physical distancing.”
The point hasn’t changed: stay physically far away from other people. Avoid crowds, gatherings, and any occasion where you might be within six feet of others, or where you might touch things that other people touch. Measures that ensure or encourage physical distancing are part of how China was able to control their outbreak so quickly. (Extensive testing and contact tracing were the other main components.)
But by calling it physical distancing, public health officials hope to communicate that we’re not trying to cut ourselves off socially. Having a supportive social life is more important than ever to handle the stress of these chaotic times, so we should be actively seeking out social connections.
So text a friend. Call your mum. Host a virtual happy hour or play a game with window signs while you keep your distance. Do a Peloton or Instagram live workout class that lets you know you’re working out with other human beings, if only remotely. Get close to other people, but do it from far away.