Maintaining physical distance between people is and must remain the number one control strategy for limiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This strategy of limiting the number of direct contacts has been called “social distancing,” but it is better described by the term “physical distancing.” Maintaining physical distancing is critical because we know this virus is easily transmitted between people, and can quickly overwhelm local health systems if aggressive efforts to contain the spread are not undertaken. As there is as much as a three-week lag time between infection and the need for intensive care for those who get most seriously ill, waiting to act based on an increase in hospitalizations or intensive care admissions is too late.
The physical distancing that started in March is only the first step. Models show that once these distancing measures let up, the virus will continue to spread aggressively. The paradox of this strategy to combat the virus is that the better we control it now, the more susceptible the population will be, leading to likely future surges of COVID-19. Maintaining physical distancing is key to limiting the impact of subsequent waves of disease. Monitoring and careful evaluation of the course of the pandemic as “stay at home” orders are refined will allow for evidence-based strategies to be put in place while minimizing the death toll.