How can physical distancing during a global pandemic be a sign of moral values? More on that to come, but first let’s explain why we are switching our vernacular to the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing.”
Over the past two weeks, the term “social distancing” has become a huge part of our collective vocabulary. Merriam-Webster’s Guide to Coronavirus Related Words outlines the definition of “social distance” and “social distancing” along with some other key words to understand during these Corona Times.
As some people are still not comprehending the severity of the situation (i.e. Spring Breakers and people crowding at local parks, beaches, and hiking trails across the country), many are pushing back against the phrase “social distancing” and recommending the phrase “physical distancing” instead. According to Dr. Jeff Kwong, a Canadian epidemiologist, “We should really be using the term physical distancing because it’s really about being physically apart, and socially, we need to kind of stick together, but just in a virtual way.” Now more than ever, we need to maintain social connectedness to help us all come to terms with this unprecedented uphill battle. However, that social connectedness must be done virtually now instead of physically.
The CDC recommends maintaining at least 6 feet or 2 meters of space. Dr. Kwong uses the example of a pool noodle to help visualize this safe distance: “Imagine you’ve got a pool noodle; if you’re closer than a pool noodle away from somebody else, you’re too close.” This is a concrete example of physical distance that both children and adults can understand.
Physical distancing is a technique for slowing the spread of the pandemic, but could it also be a sign of good moral values? When this pandemic started, the word on the street was, “I’m not gonna let this thing stop my life.” Or some even said, “Well, it only affects the elderly, chronically-ill, disabled, and/or immunocompromised. I’ll be fine.” That line of thought is incredibly hurtful and insensitive. The underlying tone of that message implies that the aforementioned people are expendable. As more and more information is pouring in, we now understand that the coronavirus affects us all regardless of age or physical health.
Practicing proper physical distancing can save lives. Helping to preserve human life is the highest value and the sign of a good moral barometer. Even if you’re young, fit, healthy, and strong, you must #DoYourPart to help stop the spread of the virus. This is not about you, but instead this is about all of us. We all have a part to play here. Many people might even be carriers of the virus but completely asymptomatic. However, once this person comes in contact with others, the virus can spread quickly.
Helping to protect the young, the old, and everyone in between should be equally important to ALL of us. Regardless of one’s age, religion, race, or politics, the one universal truth that we can all agree on is the sanctity of human life. By maintaining disciplined physical distancing, we can better ourselves as a society not just according to public health and physical safety, but also as a way to uphold our societal moral compass.
We are all in this together. Not just America, but the whole world. As global citizens, we have an unfathomable challenge that lies ahead in the weeks to come. We are going to be forced to try to make sense out of the completely unsensible data and numbers of people who are infected and fighting for their lives. We are going to see our healthcare system literally go into battle each day against a microscopic army. For those of us who are non-essential workers right now, our main role is to maintain discipline in our physical distancing. If our doctors, nurses, technicians, scientists, pharmacists, grocers, delivery personnel, etc. can face this battle head on everyday, physical distancing is the very least we can do to help.