One of the best things people across the country can do to combat the coronavirus pandemic is “social distancing.” It sounds like a new-age ritual you pay Gwyneth Paltrow $1,000 to learn about, but it’s actually an effective public health technique aimed at slowing the spread of a contagious disease like COVID-19. Social distancing involves one of my favorite hobbies: avoiding other human beings. The idea is for people to make reasonable modifications to their lives—avoiding large events, working from home if possible, steering clear of crowded public transportation—to minimize the number of infections, thus keeping doctors and hospitals from getting overwhelmed.
It won’t stop the coronavirus, but it will slow it down, an important step given that the total number of cases across the country is more than 1,000 and growing. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared the global coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
Because I care about protecting America’s most vital natural resource—me—I hereby declare myself all-in on social distancing. And with that declaration, I get to go first. (It’s a bit like calling “shotgun” when you want to sit in the front passenger seat of the car. I don’t make the rules, I just live by them.)
My first act of social distancing will be to ask everyone to please get away from me. That means you people reading this column, too. I would like you to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from your computer screen, newspaper or smartphone. Get binoculars if need be.
OK. One of the keys to social distancing, according to my epidemiologist friends, of whom I have none, is to move through public places loudly announcing you are engaged in social distancing. I tried that at the grocery store—shouting “PLEASE GET AWAY FROM ME, I AM SOCIAL DISTANCING!” while pushing a cart through the aisles—and it worked perfectly, except for the security guard who refused to respect my social distancing and stayed an anti-social distance away from me until police arrived.
Another important social distancing step is to avoid large social gatherings.
Jeanne Marrazzo, the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, told The Washington Post: “If you’re going to a concert in a small jazz club, that’s not a big deal. But if you’re going to a family wedding where there are 200 people drinking and eating, that’s a bit more concerning.”
First off, I hope nobody’s going to a concert in a small jazz club. That’s pretentious, and nobody believes you like jazz anyway. (And take off that stupid beret, you look ridiculous.)
As far as the family wedding with the eating and drinking, good riddance. I’ve spent much of my adult life looking for reasons not to attend large family gatherings, so being able to RSVP with “Sorry, socially distanced” is a godsend.
Speaking of family, my immediate family will need to adjust to my new lifestyle. For example, to do my civic duty and slow the spread of the coronavirus, the television remote control is now mine. Same with the thermostat. Both are within my “zone of social distance.”
I’m sure my wife and children will understand and respect all I’m doing to protect the health of others. If they don’t, I won’t hear their complaints because they’ll have to live in the basement until I’m done social distancing. (The dog can stay. Coronavirus rules have banned me from touching my face, so I need a different face to touch. It’s a symbiotic relationship, as the dog enjoys a good face rub.)
As far as getting around, I’m asking the Chicago Transit Authority to establish special train cars for the socially distanced. For now, since I called it and get to go first, they can just be labeled “Reserved for Rex.” More can be added once I’ve had my turn.
Working from home is a key element of social distancing, but to add an extra layer of precaution, I ask my neighbors to move their houses an additional 6 feet from mine, and to give the outside of their homes a good scrub down with hand sanitizer.
By staying apart, and particularly by staying apart from me, we can all come together—figuratively, of course, I don’t want any of you near me—and help combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to vigorously rub my dog’s face and toss some food down to my basement family.