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Social and physical distancing... are we doing it right?

Across Canada the rules and repercussions for breaking social and physical distancing vary. It makes sense we’re all scratching our heads a little.

Scrabble game tiles that spell out "Stay Home."

Jo Snyder

Let’s get on the same page.

Maybe for the first time ever as a country, regardless of political stripe, we can agree to the same mission: flatten the curve. Sounds simple? Not so much.

What's being asked of us

Absence of physical contact can be tough, especially for people living alone. It could be months before getting a much-needed hug from a friend or even talking to them face to face.

We know we can’t follow the advice of mental health professionals to reach out and connect with someone in person right now. This is short term pain for long term gain because we’re being asked to stay home and not see people, yes, even our own families!

We’re being asked to only go out when necessary. This means getting supplies or getting some exercise and then going right back home.

We’re being asked to keep our distance from others unless we live with them. This means staying two metres apart from people at all times.

What social and physical distancing doesn’t mean is meeting someone in the park and sitting on the bench, even if it’s two metres apart. It doesn’t mean that if you walk really quickly past someone, it counts as two metres apart. Like Canadian comedian Rick Mercer said, “stop looking for loopholes!

Why it's being asked of us

So chances of infection increase dramatically when infected people are in close quarters. And remember, people can be contagious without showing symptoms.

The biggest reason why physical distancing is being asked of us is that cases continue to grow every day and we’re not showing signs of flattening the curve across Canada.

Remember the basics

Give people space. Two metres to be exact. Be aware of others around you if you get lost in conversation on the phone or while paying attention to your dog.

Switch it up when you go out. Meaning, if you find that everyone on your block likes to take a break for exercise at 3:00 pm, then try 1:00 pm or 4:00 pm instead.

Be nice to each other from a distance. Clinical psychologist Nina Josefowitz says that research shows “that if people smile at us, we smile back [...] our brain chemistry changes and we get little surges of dopamine, which are our feel-good neurotransmitters.”

As the world switches up terminology from social distancing to the more accurate physical distancing, remember to reach out to your friends, family and your coworkers by phone and video chat. A little human connection can go a long way, even through a screen.

If you find yourself confused about what you can do and where The Globe and Mail has pulled together a review of the new rules according to each province.

Jo Snyder is a seasoned communications professional with expertise on the social determinants of health and health equity. Over her career, she's worked with think tanks, non-profits and big tech to deliver comms of all kinds.

This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.


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