Keeping Your Distance During a Pandemic

March 30, 2020

              On March 11, 2020; the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic. To many, hearing the word pandemic sparks great fear; the fear of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. The word “pandemic” is definitely not a comforting one. Due to movies and history, we’ve been conditioned to automatically think of death, mass panic, and disease outbreaks whenever we hear this word. However, what the WHO announced next would perhaps settle some of the fear surrounding this word; we hold the power in our hands to change the course of this pandemic. This change all begins with social distancing and self-isolating. Self-isolating and social distancing during this time of uncertainty is important, because our future depends on how we react now. We are playing our part in preventing the virus by doing it, and it’s time that we shine some positive light on self-isolation as a whole. 


             There are two possible outcomes for the coronavirus pandemic; a fast growing future and a slow spreading future. Which future we end up facing all depends on how we react to the outbreak now. Although we all currently wake up every day not knowing what’s ahead of us, we know for a fact that this disease will become extremely dangerous if everyone gets sick at once; healthcare systems will become overwhelmed. The worst case scenario will be a fast growing pandemic; where the rate of infection is rapidly high. This will be our future if we stay still and decide to do nothing to prevent the spread of the virus. In the case of a fast pandemic, large numbers of people get sick at once. Since hospitals would have limited medical staff and resources, decisions would have to be made about who gets to live and who gets to die. People will be left untreated and avoidable deaths will no longer be avoided. In contrast to this, we have a slow pandemic where the virus still continues to spread; but it will happen more slowly over a period of time. While many people will still get sick, less severe cases will show up in hospitals each day; never overwhelming the healthcare system as a result. As we’ve seen on the news, countries such as China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea are currently overwhelmed by COVID-19. Their response to it should be a warning to us from the future.


          Today, we are the future of the past pandemics. Although self-isolation and social distancing may sound drastic, it worked in 1918; when the flu pandemic hit the cities of St. Louis and Philadelphia. Both these cities ended up reacting very differently to the pandemic. On one hand, Philadelphia officials allowed for a huge parade to go on during this time. On the other hand, St. Louis took strict precautions by closing schools, theatres, and bars. Philadelphia ended up suffering from many more deaths because the healthcare system was greatly overwhelmed, while St. Louis was able to flatten the curve and prevent many people from dying as a result. Almost 100 years later, we are faced with the same situation and the same two possible outcomes. Depending on which future we want to see, we must all play our role in flattening the curve and practice social distancing. 


          In addition to deciding which future will result from this pandemic, social distancing and self-isolating is also important because we are playing our part in preventing the virus from spreading by doing it. While the overflow of severe cases is what’s overwhelming the healthcare system, the people who continue to go out and spread the virus unknowingly is what will generate all of this. Meaning that during this tragic time, we are able to do the most to contain the virus and save people from dying. As much as we rely on medical staff, cashiers, and police officers for society to function, they all rely on us now more than ever to stay safe. During times of a pandemic, not only are those working on the front lines to fight the virus heroes, but so are all the citizens who choose to stay safe, so that they don’t catch and spread the virus. Even something as small as staying two metres away from your friends when you go out or simply isolating yourself from society can be the difference between life and death for hundreds of thousands of lives. 


           Furthermore, many view self-isolation as a negative thing. However, there can be many positive outcomes from it, if we learn how to do it properly. If we look at self-isolation during the SARS epidemic, there was a study conducted in Hong Kong, where participants were given a survey about their experience living through an epidemic. The results stated that 48.4% of the participants felt that their mental health had severely deteriorated during the period of self-isolation. Since the SARS epidemic, technology has greatly developed and more people now have access to the internet. As a result from this, perhaps more people are leaning towards the idea of self-isolation this time around. However, if a smaller epidemic has had an impact on people’s mental health, a bigger pandemic will definitely have a greater impact. 


          There are many ways in which we can ensure our wellbeing during an extended period of being alone. In an article with Independent News, Dr. Lucy Archeson, a counselling psychologist, talks about how during a long period of self-isolation, we can begin to unknowingly miss the feeling of “micro-lifts.” Micro-lifts are small things we do throughout our everyday lives that give us a little lift and help us push through the day in a positive way. Things like visiting your favourite coffee shop or petting a dog you see on the street are all considered micro-lifts. To replace the micro-lifts we will be missing out on during this period of self-isolation, we can create our own micro-lifts from the comfort of our own homes. Whether that’d be picking up a new hobby or calling your friends, a micro-lift a day will definitely help keep the virus away. 


         Although we are limited from nature during a time like this, we are still able to explore the outside world and exercise within the limits. In Japan, there is something called shinrin-yoku, which means forest bathing. This doesn’t have to do anything with exercising in the forest; instead, it’s simply bathing in the forest atmosphere. The act of just being in nature for a certain period of time can help us bridge the gap between us and nature and lift us up for the day. So if you have the chance, step outside into your backyard or onto your balcony, and enjoy 10 minutes of taking in nature. Furthermore, we can take self-isolation as an opportunity to reconnect with our family and friends. In a sense, maybe now we also feel more connected to our friends and family because although we are not physically connected to one another, we are digitally connected. We often don’t have a lot of time to talk to our friends and family when we’re busy with school and work, but since we’re all now stuck in our homes and bored out of our minds, we are able to catch up with one another and spend time with each other that we wouldn’t otherwise get to. In a world where we constantly wish to relate to one another, this pandemic has unexpectedly filled this void by allowing us to relate with even the richest and most successful celebrities. It’s not often that we get to live the same lifestyle as our favourite celebrities. Even though they may live a more luxurious lifestyle than us, in the end, we are all stuck at home and feel trapped. As humans, we are encouraged to find a positive side to everything and that also applies to pandemics that are taking over the world by storm.




      In the midst of an unstoppable pandemic, we still hold the power to slow it down if we act now and self-isolate. The importance of practicing our safety through social distancing and self-isolating is to ensure our future and play our part in preventing the virus from spreading. In addition, many view self isolation in a negative light, so it’s important to shine some positive light on it for once. As citizens, we hold the power to change the course of COVID-19 in our modern day and age. While washing your hands, remember that they also hold the power to keep yourself and others safe. 





Sources used: 


Mellor, Maria. “Social distancing or isolation? Coronavirus quarantine explained.” Wired, 19     

March. 2020, Accessed March. 2020.


Gallagher, Sophie. “Coronavirus: How to manage your mental health during self-isolation.” 

Independent, March. 2020, Accessed March. 2020. 


Li, Qing. “Forest Bathing is great for your health. Here’s how to do it.” TIME, 1 March. 2020, Accessed March. 2020.


Coren, Micheal. “This chart of the 1918 Spanish flu shows why social distancing works.” Quartz, 

11 March. 2020, Accessed March. 2020. 


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