Here is why physical distancing takes time (and is crucial right now)

Mar 26 2020, 7:02 am

Social distancing, or physical distancing, are words that were completely unfamiliar to us just weeks ago.

Today, they are the most powerful two words shared by Canada’s top medical doctors.

But while we are all cooped up at home these days, it can be tough to understand how our current Netflix-and-stay-indoors action is helping to flatten the curve.

Especially if the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the nation.

The words “social distancing” is used to reference the physical distance between us.

Initially used by Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, until she recently switched it up to “physical distancing.”

Either way, and whichever words used, it all comes down to the importance of the concept.

In Toronto, as of 1 pm on March 25, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s Medical Officer of Health, said there were 319 confirmed coronavirus cases within the city.

Of those, 16% were said to be attributed to community spread.

Nationally, as of March 25, there were 35 deaths related to coronavirus, and 3,385 confirmed cases. Of those, the federal government says 58% comes from “community setting.”

This means the disease is now in our communities.

“This virus is spreading in our City and this is why I keep urging everyone to stay home,” Dr. de Villa said on Wednesday.

Adding when you don’t stay home, you are putting our most vulnerable residents at risk. This includes our parents, grandparents, those with compromised immune systems, and those with chronic health conditions.

But staying at home, or physical distancing, doesn’t work miraculously overnight.

It takes time. In fact, it will take time. That doesn’t mean it’s not working.

“The effects of social distancing take time,” said Dr. de Villa, as she explained how the process works.

“You can be infected with COVID-19 and not know. For most people it takes about 5-6 days before they show symptoms of illness. For some people it can take up to 14 days,” she said. “There can be a number of days from the time you show symptoms, to when you get tested and then receive the result. This means that the positive tests we are getting now are the results of infections that happened several days ago.”

Dr. de Villa said that even if we all stayed home starting today, “over the next several days we would still see new infections from the past, but we would be preventing new ones from occurring.”

“This is why it is so important to stay home now.”

She also added that we know from other countries that the practice of physical distancing works, “but it takes time.”

“Similar to any treatment that you’re given, you need the right medicine at the right dose for the right amount of time.”

This week, Dr. de Villa recommended all amenities in local parks be closed to limit congregation and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Premier Doug Ford called for all non-essential businesses to close earlier in the week, for the same reason.

Dr. Tam said that “right now is an extremely critical time for Canada to maintain our resolve and to get it right. We need to get this done.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is repeatedly pleading for Canadians to stay home.

“Enough is enough, go home and stay home,” he said earlier this week, and continues to share that message daily through his press conferences.

Canada’s top doctor and our prime minister’s sentiments are echoed throughout the country, and in its most populated city.

If we want life to return to “normal,” the change needs to take place today. Right now.

“I strongly urge everyone to take your part seriously. Unlike other cities and countries, we still have the opportunity to slow this virus spread, but our window is closing,” said Dr. de Villa.

“We will get through this by working together. So please stay home, stay safe and take care of each other.”

And while you’re at it, wash your hands so that one day, in the not-so-distant future, we can maybe-possibly high-five again.