Social distancing means changing old habits

Published 7:24 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

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Over the course of the past week, the term “social distancing” has become an increasingly familiar part of everyday conversation. But what exactly does it mean, and how can Beaufort County residents stay in touch while keeping physically apart?

As naturally social creatures, Beaufort County Health Director Jim Madson says the recommendation to distance ourselves from one another can make for a difficult adjustment.

“Avoiding the mass gatherings is probably the most unusual thing, because we’re social animals,” Madson said. “But even maintaining a little bit of distance away from people, extending that personal bubble that we have, that’s another thing.”

Other ingrained habits like handshaking and hugging can also be hard to break, he said. But most importantly, staying away from others while sick is critical to overall public health.

Other common recommendations for social distancing include working from home if possible, switching to online meetings, maintaining a distance of six feet from other people and limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer.

With some exception, Madson says most Beaufort County residents are taking the situation seriously and trying to practice these social distancing measures as much as possible.

“I think most people are trying,” Madson said. “Some are forgetting sometimes about shaking hands and that type of thing. I think there are maybe some incidental breaches in that. Of course, you have a certain percentage of the population that just kind of ignore those guidelines, but I see a lot of people complying.”

Fortunately, for those who have access to computers, smartphones or the internet, there are a wide variety of digital resources that allow people to stay connected with one another, without being physically face-to-face.

Programs and apps like FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts can help keep family, friends and coworkers connected to help stave off feelings of isolation and loneliness. For those who feel under the weather, telemedicine options like Vidant Health’s VidantNow app offers an option to see a doctor remotely, 24/7 via video or phone.

“I would recommend those tools for that purpose,” Madson said. “Especially if you’re sick, you can still use FaceTime and not transmit the disease. I think it’s an important part of it. I think you’ll see more and more development in that area. Kind of just a change in the culture of our society.”

For additional details on recommended measures in workplaces and community locations, visit

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