The Science of Social Distancing
Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said gatherings of 50 or more people are strongly discouraged over the next eight weeks. This is to help contain the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Tons of other stuff is closed down, such as many schools, libraries, colleges, places of worship, etc.
All of this is to help create and enforce distance between humans, a proven way of slowing the progress of pandemics.
We have been hearing the term “social distancing” quite a bit lately. But why is it important? And what does it really mean?
Why Social Distancing Is Important
Even those who become only mildly ill, and those who never show any symptoms at all, can still carry the virus and be a big problem when it comes to the exponential increase in the virus in our population.
Even if you are young, healthy, and have no risk factors, you should still not be socializing. Certainly older people and those with other health conditions are most likely to catch the virus, but young people are not at all immune, and may even be carrying the virus without realizing it.
For example, actor Idris Elba recently said he tested positive for COVID-19, but he said he wasn’t feeling sick at all. This is a prime example of why experts urge everyone to practice social distancing, not just those considered at high risk or who are seriously ill.
What Does Social Distancing Really Mean?
At its most basic, social distancing is the concept of keeping a distance between you and other people. Right now experts suggest at least six feet.
In practical terms, it’s important to minimize contact with all people as much as you are able. So avoiding public transportation when you can, don’t travel, work from home if you can, and definitely and skip social gatherings—ideally even small ones like coffee visits.
Since people weren’t staying out of crowded bars and similar places, many governments have closed down restaurants (other than for takeout), bars, and clubs. And pretty much all sports are shut down at this point as well.
This distancing strategy saved thousands of lives both during the Spanish flu pandemic a little over 100 years ago, and much more recently in Mexico City during the 2009 flu pandemic.
Note that you may have to be physically distant, but be sure to check in with friends and family on the phone or online. People can get lonely out there!
So Can I Go Outside?
Yeah, you can totally go outside. Get some air, go for a walk alone or with your pooch, read on your patio or in your yard. All of that is great. Just don’t do it with a group of neighbors or friends. Do it by yourself.
And you can still get groceries and prescriptions and the like. Just minimize the number of trips you make. If it isn’t important, wait until you need a few more things and go shopping then.
If your grocery store offers disinfecting wipes for your grocery cart use them, and if not, feel free to bring your own.
Just keep practicing good hand-washing and disinfecting, and not touching your face, whenever you go out for any reason.
One expert noted that you should not use your cell phone when out shopping because you may transfer the virus to your phone if you touch it before you’ve washed your hands. You can mitigate this somewhat with hand sanitizer, however.
The Math of Infectious Disease
There is a COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planner created by the Georgia Tech quantitative biologist Joshua Weitz which you can check out here. In an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Weitz, along with co-authors Richard E. Lenski, Lauren A. Meyers, and Jonathan Dushoff, gave some real-world examples to help us understand.
They use the example of March Madness basketball games to illustrate the point. What are the odds that none of the 75,000 attendees are affected? They use statistics to determine that there is a 99% chance that one ore more attendees would have arrived infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
If you’re into mathematical models you can get the full story and all the math here.
What’s Happening at CAEZIK SF & Fantasy Publishing
The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes comes out in just over a week! It’s the previously unpublished work by Robert A. Heinlein that is a parallel to his 1980 novel, The Number of the Beast.
Of course there’s also Robert J. Sawyer’s new novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative, which is being published by CAEZIK in paperback on June 2 in the United States. Read an advanced preview here (link opens a PDF) and be the first of your friends to have a peek inside Sawyer’s latest work.
Also, The Oppenheimer Alternative is now available for pre-order, so be sure to get on the list right away.