In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the term physical distancing has become a household conversation. You may have heard this term used on  local news, social media, or even within your work environment, but what exactly does physical distancing mean and why is it being recommended? 

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through close contact (approximately 6 feet) via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in people’s mouths and noses, or can be inhaled into the lungs of nearby people. Additionally, the droplets can contaminate and temporarily survive on surfaces. People can become ill by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their nose, mouth, or eyes, although this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. 

Physical distancing is a prevention method to slow the person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent the novel coronavirus, so the best way to prevent illness from COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to it. 

The recommendation for physical distancing includes the following:

  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • If you are sick, stay home unless medical attention is required. 
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds (if soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid large gatherings or crowded areas (e.g., crowded stores, long food pickup lines, parties, non-essential travel).
  • In all activities, maintain a 6 foot distance from others.

There are public health impacts that prolonged physical distancing could have on the mental health of Arizonans. For example, the financial ramifications to individuals and businesses and the fear and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 outbreak can have a negative impact on our communities’ mental health. During these unprecedented times, now more than ever, it’s important we emphasize the support we can provide to our fellow citizens, and make it clear: physical distancing should not deter us from social connectedness. 

There are activities each of us can do so we can be physically distant but remain socially connected, including:

  • Reading a book or joining an online book club.
  • Cooking a meal with your family.
  • Playing online video games with others.
  • Calling friends and loved ones on the phone or web-cam.
  • Exercising (e.g., riding a bike, walking your pet, virtual workout class).
  • Hiking a non-crowded trail.
  • Going for a drive.
  • Connecting with friends via social media/web. 
  • Doing yard work or gardening. 

The Arizona Department of Health Services encourages everyone to participate in activities that keep you safe and healthy and we thank you for doing your part in this pandemic response. For updated information about COVID-19 in Arizona, visit our website