Social Distancing Explained in Light of Shelter-in-Place Order

By Gianina Fan, editor

So you heard that Sonoma County will start to enforce a shelter-in-place order. But you can still go to the grocery store, the bank, out for a run or even order takeout. Doesn’t sound so bad to me. It sounds like you can still hang out with your friends if you really wanted to, I mean, we have to take advantage of these next three weeks off right? Wrong.

I see you, you rebellious teens. You’re thinking, well it’s only old people and immunocompromised people getting sick, so I’ll be fine. Or you’re thinking, man my parents are overreacting for locking me away from daylight. It’s just the flu. What even is social distancing? Or flattening the curve? 

Social distancing is  about avoiding public places, large crowds and basically anyone outside of your family. Seems extreme right? Well, Covid-19 spreads extremely quickly. According to Julia Belluz, a senior health reporter at, “All you need to do to spread Covid-19 is cough or sneeze on someone else, touch a surface where the virus still lives, and then put your hand in your mouth, or your eyes, or your nose.” Well no biggie, I’m young and I know I’m not sick so it’s still ok for me to go out. Wrong again. The spread all starts with a few people who don’t think they’re sick. It can take an average of five to six days for you to feel sick after being infected. So those infected people who don’t feel symptoms go to work or a restaurant for dinner and unknowingly infect a few more people, who then go about their day spreading the virus without meaning to. 

Ugh, well it’s not like Covid-19 is really all that serious anyways. According to China CDC Weekly, only 20 percent of cases will have severe respiratory problems and only one to two percent of cases result in death. But the people getting unknowingly infected could be elderly or have weak immune systems, landing them in the hospital. Pretty soon, our hospitals will be overwhelmed, so people who actually need treatment for Covid-19 won’t get the help they need, resulting in deaths that could have been avoided. We already see this happening in Iran, South Korea and Italy. After new cases began to rapidly spring up in Sonoma County, which now totals to eight,  a shelter-in-place order has been enforced which forbids all nonessential activities. This doesn’t mean you’re locked inside your houses. You can still buy groceries when you need to or go on a walk. 

No one will stop you from getting your group together for a hike in Spring Lake or having movie night with friends. But this order isn’t about you. You’re young and healthy. If you got sick, you’ll probably recover, no problem. This order is about those who are older and have underlying health issues that put them in grave danger. This order is about helping doctors who are already on the clock against the virus. So think hard before you go to that party or hangout. 

This is what flattening the curve is all about. Social distancing isn’t going to fix Covid-19. But it will slow down the spread, meaning that hospitals won’t be overwhelmed with a ton of patients all at once The tall red curve on the right is what will happen if Covid-19 continues its path: too many cases at once and not enough hospital beds or materials. So, more deaths. However, the flatter, wider blue curve on the left is what we’re aiming for with social distancing. The number of cases will be the same as the red curve, but over a longer period of time so that hospitals can adequately treat severe cases over more time.

This isn’t meant to shame those who have to go outside for their job or responsibilities. Please keep these workers in mind as they do their jobs to keep you safe and supplied with what you need. 

Additionally, this article isn’t meant to make you panic. Do not go on a rampage and buy the last 10 cans of beans–you don’t need 10 cans of beans. I’m looking at you, Karen. Be prepared and aware, but do not panic. 

While this all seems very depressing and apocalyptic, there are many ways out there for you to pass your time. Go on a hike with your family and embrace beautiful Sonoma County. Watch that show on Netflix you’ve been waiting to watch or read that book you were always meaning to read. Or that your English teacher told you to read.

And just so you know, you’re not being cool or funny the next time you post on your social media about hanging out with your friends in spite of the CDC’s recommendation for social distancing. Don’t go to that party. You’re not rebelling or taking back control from the virus that you think has ruined your life. It’s selfish. We can defeat Covid-19 but it all depends on you. 

As one school superintendent said in a viral Tweet, “In the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much, but it will be QUITE apparent if we underreacted or did too little.”

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