Tired of social distancing? It’s not the time to let up.

Tired of social distancing? It’s not the time to let up.

Social distancing policies and state-required stay-at-home orders are well into their second month in both Illinois and Wisconsin as public health leaders continue stress the importance of slowing the spread of COVID-19.

But a new study from the University of Maryland suggests that the public’s willingness to go along with the stay-at-home orders might be slipping. Their research tracked cellphone data and found that people are leaving their homes more, and traveling farther when they do. They called it “quarantine fatigue.”

Dr. Robert Citronberg, director of infectious disease at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, says he understands that social distancing isn’t always easy. Now is not the time to let up, though.

“Social distancing works. The best way to keep people safe during this global pandemic is to slow the spread of the virus,” Dr. Citronberg says. “There’s no question that this can be difficult, but the rapid spread of this new coronavirus is worse. Lives are at stake.”

So far, more than 2,000 people in Illinois and more than 280 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, but the governors of both states and public health officials have said those numbers would be far higher without the social distancing of the last two months. And if people let up now, those numbers could climb faster.

“Now that we have made substantial progress in flattening the curve, we need to work that much harder to bend it down,” Dr. Citronberg says.

The most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of this deadly virus is practice social distancing. That means staying home if your job allows it, except for essential trips for groceries or other essentials. And when you go out, you should stay six feet away from others, avoid contact and wash your hands regularly and vigorously.

The idea behind social distancing is simple. The virus spreads via droplets in the air. People are more likely to breathe in those droplets when they’re close to each other. If people generally stay away from each other, the droplets won’t spread. A Centers for Disease Control video explains.

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  1. All well and good. However, the initial rationale for the quarantine was to “flatten the curve”. Never have we been told exactly how flat the curve must be or how we will know when the quarantine will be lifted. It just keeps getting extended and extended. Now people are saying that the quarantine will continue until we have a cure or a vaccine or until the virus poses no further threat or … something. In other words, the goalposts have been moved.

    There is no cure on the horizon, a vaccine is about 18 months away, and now we hear that the virus mutates, so we may never have a vaccine/develop immunity. So, what’s the plan here? Are we going to continue this forever? What’s the plan to provide for the tens of millions of people who are out of work so they don’t go homeless and hungry and slip into permanent poverty? What’s the plan for maintaining mental health as people face serious depression and anxiety from isolation and helplessness?

    The disease is not the only threat that must be dealt with as a public health threat. Homelessness, poverty and mental illness are just as much (if not more) of a threat. Not to mention other physical health issues that aren’t being addressed because routine screenings and other non-emergency procedures are not happening. It’s all well and good to tell people that staying home saves lives, but it doesn’t if you don’t deal with the other life-threatening aspects of this crisis. So again, what’s the plan?

  2. I understand the importance of being safe and smart about this, but what about the elderly that are shut in alone everyday. My mother is one of them and I don’t know how to make her feel better. She is really struggling with never seeing loved ones or friends. And since she doesn’t have internet there’s no way to do any kind of social media with her. She’s been crying and is starting to feel hopeless. This has to end hopefully sooner than later. So how do I help her? Because the phone calls aren’t doing it anymore.

    • Sandy, Last weekend my daughter needed to do some grocery shopping so we both drove to the store, parked next to each other and while she shopped I had a great visit with my granddaughters. Couldn’t hug them, but seeing those beautiful faces in person really boosted my spirits. It may help your mom if she can just see her family and friends in person, it sure helped me. I’m in favor of loosening restrictions a bit, but would rather stay home now than have to do it all over again.

  3. Is there any problem with just riding in your car, not stopping for food or talking to anyone. My husband and I sometimes get in the car, drive as far as 20 miles, just to ride around in the countryside and view nature such as lakes or farm lands. We don’t see any harm in it. Are we wrong?

  4. Both of the above comments do need to be addressed. I am will to do what is right and best, but agree we need a long term socially manageable plan that includes safety and real life!

  5. Sandy, I have parents over 85 and I completely sympathize with what you are saying. I’m sure you do recognize that simply ending all social distancing recommendations for everyone in order to ease the loneliness of seniors will put all at more risk, and especially them. Maybe there is a middle ground that could apply to your mother, like visiting her often in an outdoors setting where you maintain distance, or carefully orchestrating outings for her as some businesses open. Anything done with care that loosens the restrictions for her occasionally would be safer for her than dumping them all entirely for everyone.

  6. Gloria Picchetti April 29, 2020 at 4:30 pm · Reply

    I am enjoying this time. I am taking a coursera course from Yale called The Art of Well Being.
    These are more things I am doing:
    Finished to do list.
    Figured out some solutions to long time problems.
    Sent cards to friends.
    Learned new recipes.
    Learning how to use Chromebook as a Kindle.
    We might not get a time to catch up again. Use it wisely and have fun!

  7. I absolutely agree with everything Dienne said…
    You put it perfectly.

  8. Regarding the elderly mother, you could go to her house, knock on the glass window and give her a call to say hi. That is, do as much as you would do in a normal visit to her save for actually coming into contact with her. I hope this helps!

  9. Paulette Peters April 29, 2020 at 7:45 pm · Reply

    I agree with your comments! The governors keep extending the stay-at-home orders with no end in sight. What is the long term plan to re-open the country’s economy? I am ready to join one of those “Liberate Illinois” protests.

  10. We all know that the Stay home law is getting somewhat difficult but imagine loosing your loved ones cause you wanted to go sit and get a bite to eat or go to the movies or etc. when someone next to you cough on you and you or your loved ones catch the virus…. then what? it’s over and now the grief anxiety pain and all the above comes when our loved ones are permanently not with us anymore, then we will wish we would have Stayed home for a few more weeks to keep us safe. If we stay focus on what’s important in our lives than it would make life much better. Do we want to do whatever necessary for long term life or long term “things” that we may loose anyway.

  11. Yes, I am sort of bored with this and yes I would like life to go back to normal but at what cost. I believe after reading about the pandemic in 1918 with the first H1N1 that life will go back to normal, however, I am more afraid of catching this thing and not surviving than I am of the other fall out. Eventually the economy will recover and I’ll sit tight because I want to see that happen. I have been a nurse for 38 yrs and have seen and been through a lot starting with HIV AIDS right after I graduated. I am now in an office job and every time I think about the nurses who are risking their lives to care for patients I think I am OK with staying home for now to save their lives. You see its not just about you and me its about the consequence to others if we don’t follow the guidelines.
    As for the mom issue, my brother, my sisters and I take turns going to see her and chat. She’s on the porch, we are on the sidewalk below. Sometimes we take a walk through the neighborhood, masked, her on the sidewalk and me on the street. Where there is a will, there is a way.
    Stay safe and put your life in God’s hands.

About the Author

Mike Riopell
Mike Riopell

Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.