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Social Distancing Mistakes That Put You At Risk For Coronavirus

Avoid these errors when staying apart from others. Because we're all in this together. 
Social distancing in Shinjuku Gyoen Park in Tokyo while Sakura the cherry bloom.

"Social distancing" is the buzzword of the moment. Experts say it's the key to slowing the spread of coronavirus and preventing medical resources from being overwhelmed. You may know the basics—stay six feet apart from others and wear a cloth face covering in public—but some easy-to-make mistakes can render your best efforts ineffective. Here's what the experts say are common social distancing mistakes that increase your risk of contracting coronavirus.

1

You're Arranging Playdates

Child boy and girl playing outdoors with face mask protection. School boy breathing through medical mask
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"Some parents let their children go out and play with others because 'only elderly are at risk'. In reality, children have the same risk of getting infected," says physician Dimitar Marinov, MD, Ph.D. "However, they are much more often asymptomatic. They can still spread the infection, which puts everyone else at risk, and especially their grandparents if they live together or get in close contact."

2

You Think You're Invincible

Image of two young beautiful women friends outdoors with bicycles in park.
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Coronavirus is so dangerous because no one is immune. "Young people think that social distancing is just for the elderly, and they can't have severe symptoms," says Marinov. "In reality, around 40% of the patients that required hospitalization were between 20 and 54 years old, according to the CDC."

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3

You're Going To Parks

Social distancing in Shinjuku Gyoen Park in Tokyo while Sakura the cherry bloom.
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"While it may not seem obvious, social distancing includes avoiding areas in which others have recently touched or been," says Jared Heathman, MD, a Texas-based psychiatrist. "People should avoid playgrounds even if no one else is there, because the virus may live on inanimate objects for days."

4

You Exercise In Close Proximity

Three runners sprinting outdoors - Sportive people training in a urban area, healthy lifestyle and sport concepts
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Although it's still important to get some exercise, you should do it a safe distance away from others. "People should not walk or exercise behind other people," says Heathman. "The wind may blow the virus backward, and you can become exposed that way, despite being more than 10 feet behind someone else."

5

You Don't Use A Mask Correctly

woman in a medical mask on her face during the pandemic outdoors
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The CDC recommends that the general public should cover their faces with a cloth mask when outside. But according to ER doctor Greg Jacobson, MD, "People don't wear a mask and, when they do, they don't take it off correctly. It's a mistake to take off their mask from the front and then touch the 'contaminated' area." To remove a mask safely, "wash your hands (with soap and hot water for 20 seconds), remove the mask from loops, and put it in a safe place and then wash your hands again," says Jacobson. 

6

You're Not Staying Apart

Three businesswomen on the coffee break in the office
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"It all comes down to following the guidelines: six feet apart from another individual," says Anthony Jones, MD, a palliative care physician in New York. An example, he notes, is that you shouldn't "be sitting next to each other while eating lunch at work." 

"The reason is that droplets that contain the virus can still land on your clothing, phone or other personal items if you come too close to an infected person," says Omiete Charles-Davies, a physician and founder of 25doctors.com.

7

You Make Repeat Shopping Trips

Young woman shopping in grocery store for food while wearing mask and preventing spread of coronavirus virus germs by wearing face mask.
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The more times you go out in public, the more chances you have to catch the virus. "People don't make a list, so they have to go back to the store too often," says Jacobson. Limit your shopping trips by planning ahead, and stock up as much as possible in one place.

RELATED: Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!

8

You Don't Cover Your Eyes

A man in medical face mask (respirator) and safety glasses outdoors
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"People really should wear eye protection as well, if they are heading into a grocery store," says Jacobson. "Wear some glasses to remind yourself to not rub your eyes."

9

You're Still Using Gloves Wrong

taking of medical gloves
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Remember that protective gloves can be germ magnets, just like your bare hands. "Gloves do not resist the virus," says Dr. Mike DeCubellis, a chiropractor in Downers Grove, Illinois. "And when your gloves have touched store shelves, shipped boxes, and your car, then your face or your food, you just potentially contaminated yourself with your gloves!" If you wear gloves on an errand run, take them off before getting in your car or returning home.

10

You're Inviting People Over

cocktail on table with friends
Courtesy of Taylor Arnold

Even if you don't go outside to public gatherings, inviting people over to your home also invites the people they've been in contact with. "Viruses need to move from person to person to stay alive," says Leann Poston, MD, a physician with Invigor Medical in New York City. "Social distancing makes it difficult for viruses to move, thus the saying if you don't move, then neither can the virus."

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 40 Things You Should Never Touch Due to Coronavirus

Emilia Paluszek
Emilia specializes in human biology and psychology at the University at Albany. Read more