SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – We’re hearing all about “social distancing” as a tactic to try to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. As schools are closing down, health experts are advising parents and students to not take this measure lightly.

From schools, to museums, to amusement parks, closures, and daily disruptions from the coronavirus have become the new norm. Dr. Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention for the Johns Hopkins Health System says, “I do think it is the right thing to do right now, and we are facing a crisis and I think this will help. And we will focus on treating those who have the most severe forms of the illness. And we will all get through this together.”

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Dr. Maragakis says even if you don’t have symptoms, staying away from crowds and keeping your distance from others should be the mindset for now.

“Social distancing” has become a new buzzword. What does it mean?

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According to Dr. Maragakis, “Social distancing is really a term that refers to anything that we can do to increase the distance between ourselves and others to decrease the possibility of catching a respiratory virus. So it’s the kind of common sense things that people might do if they know they have a cold or flu and they don’t want to spread it amongst their family and friends. It’s anything from not shaking hands, not hugging and kissing someone, to really just leaving more space between yourself and someone else.”
Around six feet of separation is what health experts are recommending, and while some states, like Maryland, are shutting down schools, doctors say that doesn’t mean completely changing your way of life.

According to Dr. Maragakis, “Gathering in small groups is still going to occur and I think is entirely appropriate. We just all need to be very vigilant about anyone who has symptoms of respiratory disease.”

But Dr. Maragakis cautions any symptoms, even mild ones, should be taken seriously. Meaning parents and individuals need to stay on alert and stay home when sick. Maragakis says, “It’s not a vacation. There’s a very serious reason for school cancellations.” She adds, “This is not a time for any of us to get together in large groups outside of work or outside of school.”

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Health experts say the goal here is not only to keep yourself safe, but to protect the more vulnerable in your community who are at risk for severe disease.