Features

The Importance of Practicing Social Distancing

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MISHAWAKA – Just two weeks ago, college students from all over the country celebrated spring break, ignoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) and neglecting warnings from health care officials and the authorities to practice social distancing.  

In Florida, though students were warned of the risk of large social gatherings, and health care officials had made clear the risk that gatherings of more than 10 people posed, throngs of young people gathered in tight quarters on the many popular beaches in the state. Florida state authorities took measures to officially close the beaches, putting up fencing and kicking out beachgoers. Still, people ignored these measures to enjoy some time in the sand. Similar stories were reported from beaches in Mexico and California as well. Now, just under two weeks later, the health care system is seeing the effects this carelessness has had on our country.  

As a result of these spring break trips, according to the Washington Post on April 1, 28 students from the University of Texas have tested positive for the virus. Less than 24 hours later, according to the New York Times on April 1, that total jumped to 44 students. Tectonix GEO, a data firm that has designed location technology for gathering high-volume location data, took to their social media accounts to share cell phone activity of spring breakers in Florida. This video shows the impact and movement of these students and the potential impact they could have on the spread of COVID-19. The video was posted with the caption, “One person can make a huge impact on protecting our healthcare system and essential services.” 

According to the South Bend Tribune in a story published on March 26, a Saint Mary’s student who took a spring break trip to Spain recently tested positive for the virus. When she first arrived in Spain on March 6, there were only 200 confirmed cases in the country, but by the time she headed home on March 12, just 6 days later, that number had grown to nearly 3,000. By March 17, she started to experience symptoms of COVID-19. Now, she is urging fellow Generation Z people to take these social distancing measures seriously.  

On March 6, the state of Indiana confirmed the first official case of COVID-19. Now, less than a month later, that number has jumped to 4,411 with 127 confirmed deaths (as of publication date).  

“This virus doesn’t differentiate between groups of people. … Every single person is a potential vessel to spread this virus,” said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday afternoon. On April 3, Gov. Holcomb officially extended the Indiana stay at home order until April 20. 

Social distancing has been proven to slow the spread of the virus. Because the incubation period of the virus is up to 14 days, those infected may be pre-symptomatic carriers of the virus for up to two weeks. This means that a person may be spreading the virus to anyone they encounter, even if they aren’t experiencing symptoms.  

Data from those aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship shows that more than 45% of those who tested positive for the virus were not experiencing symptoms at the time of testing, while 18% of those who tested positive remained asymptomatic through the entire extent of the illness, meaning that they never showed symptoms. Data like this suggests there are many silent carriers who will never know they are sick but spread the virus to others. The Imperial College Group, London, suggests that, on average, the virus will spread to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people per infected person. In comparison, Influenza A and B will spread to 1.3 people per infected person.  

The longer social distancing warnings are ignored, the longer restrictions will be in place. According to the Centers for Disease Control, social distancing means avoiding close contact with those who are sick and staying home if you are feeling unwell; covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze; cleaning frequently-touched surfaces daily; washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; covering your mouth with your arm or a tissue when you cough or sneeze; choosing a “sick room” in your house if someone in your household is experiencing symptoms; avoiding contact with anyone who is not part of your household; avoiding having guests in your home; and staying at least 6 feet apart at all times. Social distancing is a simple, important step we can all take to slow the spread of COVID-19.  

New York has become the epicenter of the virus for the United States. In an address on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo posed the question: “Who else has to die before you understand you have a responsibility?”  

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