REGINA -- You keep hearing people say “social distancing” but what does that really mean? Don’t expect it to be a term that goes away any time soon. Think of it more like “physical distancing”. In it’s most simple form, social distancing, means keeping a safe distance between you and the people around you. The World Health Organization and various other health agencies say it’s one way we can help slow the spread of COVID-19.

How much space do you need?

Two metres or roughly six feet.

Microbiologist Jason Tetro says the droplets (liquids that come out when you cough or sneeze) can travel up to a metre before they get heavy and fall to the ground. Once on a surface, they can remain germ filled of a few hours, so he recommends wiping surfaces you may come in contact with or prepare food on.

Does it really work?

Consider this: When H1N1 started to spread in Mexico, the government shut down schools and recommended social distancing. The National Institute of Health believes these measures cut transmission rates by 37 percent helping hospitals handle patient volumes a little easier. Not convinced? Here’s another example. The City of St. Louis enacted several social distancing measures in 1918 following the First World War to prevent the spread of influenza (the flu, a different family of virus than COVID-19) closing schools, churches and theatres, just like we are doing now.

1700 people died from the flu in St. Louis. Philadelphia did not impose those same measures at that same time. 16,000 people died in Philadelphia. Health officials at the time reported that they couldn’t keep up with patient volumes.

Why are we social distancing?

To help slow the spread of COVID-19. Health officials warns that several people will become infected with varying degrees of COVID-19, but social distancing can help slow the spread of it. It can also help keep those most vulnerable among us at a lesser likelihood of contracting the virus, like young people with compromised immune systems or cancer patients.