Social Connection During COVID-19

For many of us, COVID-19 has upended our routines and created a “new normal” that required fast adaptation. We want to clarify some terms used about COVID-19 and help maintain your physical, emotional and mental well-being healthy. Together, we can maintain social connections while we stay safe in our homes.

Terms to Know

Physical Distancing: Also known as “social distancing,” physical distancing is the act of staying six feet away from other people. We use the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing” because we want to maintain our social connections. While physical distancing requires space between us, it doesn’t have to interrupt our connections with loved ones. Practice physical distancing with everyone you come into contact with outside of the people who live in your home. When practicing physical distancing, you can still perform daily activities outside the home, such as grocery shopping, taking walks, and chatting with neighbors.

Quarantine: The purpose of quarantine is separation. This method restricts movement from the home if someone was exposed to a contagious disease. It helps us make sure they are home and away from others while waiting to see if they are sick. This includes exposure to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or a person with the symptoms of COVID-19. Quarantine is for people who are not yet sick, but who may have been in close contact with someone who is sick. This could include members of your household, co-workers, or others you spend a great deal of time with (and are within six feet of for 10 minutes or more). It can be voluntary, but public health has legal authority to issue quarantine orders to people who were exposed to a contagious disease.

Quarantined people:

  • Stay at home or in another location for 14 days so they don’t spread the disease to healthy people.
  • Can seek medical treatment from a health care provider. In the case of COVID-19, they should CALL a provider or clinic first to get instructions BEFORE going to a health care office, hospital, or urgent care. If they have a medical emergency, they should tell the 911 dispatcher they are under quarantine for COVID-19.

Isolation: Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. It is for people who are already sick. Isolation can be voluntary, but public health agencies have legal authority to issue isolation orders to people who are sick.

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 OR if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, including early or mild symptoms, you should be in isolation until:

  • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers)
    AND
  • other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
    AND
  • At least seven days have passed since your symptoms first appeared
  • CDC: What to do if you are in isolation

Health care workers may have to isolate for longer. They should do what they are told by the health care facility they work for. 

Shelter-in-Place: When the order to Shelter In Place goes out, that means you should stay home as much as possible, only leaving your house for essential activities (getting groceries, medication, seeking necessary medical attention, and exercise for you and/or your pets in isolated spaces).

Essential Personnel: People who work in the healthcare industry, grocery stores, pharmacies, and other places that require staffing for living necessities are essential and can move through the community to do their job without risk of legal consequences.

Maintaining Connections

Now, more than ever, it is so important for us to work on keeping our physical, emotional and mental well-being in a good place. Keeping connected with your social circle of family, friends and coworkers helps. We want to help you find ways to be creative with enhancing your social connections – surrounding yourself with your community of loved ones, even when physically apart, plays a key role in keeping your well-being good.

Healthy Living Program Manager Zaneta Evans says, “We don’t have the physical connection right now, so thinking outside the box is important. Let’s pick up the phone and have a conversation. Video calling helps us see our loved ones’ faces. Be creative with how you engage with people and interact with others, even in your own home. We can write letters, we can reach back to before technology was an option and find ways to be with each other, without closing that physical distance.”

She continues, “We also need to make sure we’re inclusive of others who may not have large social networks. We need to come together as a community to support the people who need our help most, and really reach out in the ways that make an impact. Ask an elderly neighbor if you can go grocery shopping for them. Leave a note on the door of a neighbor who lives alone, telling them you’re thinking of them. Find ways to include people in our circles who may not have a support network of their own already.”

Be Kind to Others and to Yourself

Perhaps the most important thing to remember right now is that you’re not alone in this situation. COVID-19 affects us all, and it creates a feeling of vulnerability in many. Be kind to yourself if you’re struggling and remember that it’s okay to feel scared and anxious.

Making a rapid switch in how we live our lives can be jarring and cause feelings of upheaval. Being kind to yourself in this scenario means taking time to figure out your workspace, setting yourself up for both comfort and success. It means taking breaks when you need them. It means giving yourself permission to say, “This is hard and I’m struggling; I need support,” and then reaching out to your network of loved ones for help.

As an organization, we are also a community. We’ve done amazing things in coming together to help the people we serve, and we also need to support each other. Reach out to your coworkers to ask if they’re doing alright. Tell them if you need some additional check-ins for your own emotional well-being. 

Zaneta says, “What makes this situation unique is that there is no discrimination against anyone; this virus impacts all of us. That relatedness of shared burden increases our ability to connect. We’re in this together and we’re not alone.”

For additional resources about COVID-19, visit our webpage.