How to Social-Distance in East Lansing

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Graphic courtesy MSU College of Human Medicine.

“Social distancing even one day sooner will save lives.”

That’s the quote I got from Aron Sousa, the interim dean of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, when I asked him yesterday why he was telling his own staff to work from home as much as possible.

This morning, Sousa himself is working from home. He has made a big pot of coffee for himself and his wife, and his email alerts keep going “bling, bling, bling” as he tries to finish his weekly “dean’s update.” (I can verify all this because I am his wife.)

Sousa supports Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to close all K-12 schools in the state for a few weeks.  While it is older people who are most at risk from COVID-19, Sousa explains, “If we can keep kids from getting sick, their grandparents won’t get sick.”

Sousa also supports Mayor Ruth Beier’s call for social distancing. He had his team prepare two graphics to try to encourage people to take this seriously. One leads this article. Here is the other, which is taken from one by the CDC:

As Sousa said in a special “dean’s update” earlier this week, “Do. Not. Be. A. Vector.” The point of social distancing is to avoid becoming a vector for the virus — to help “flatten the curve” in order to slow the spread of the virus so that it doesn’t take off on us.

So what can you do to help flatten the curve in East Lansing?

First off, stop being among other people as much as possible. Assess what is truly essential and what is not in terms of physically being with other people. For example, ELi has two group meetings coming up this month — one a meeting of our Board of Directors and the other of our Community Advisory Board — and we are making plans now to move both to conference calls.

Second, if you do need to go out among other people, be efficient to minimize time with others. If you’re going to the grocery store, make a list and buy more than you otherwise would to avoid going back.

Third, remember to wash your hands well before and after going out. Soap and water works great; you don’t need special products. If you have a cough and you’re going out, wear a mask to keep your droplets to yourself. If you don’t have a mask and you need to cough or sneeze, do it in the crook of your arm.

Fourth, know that “social distancing” doesn’t mean social isolation. Keep reaching out to be with others by phone and internet. Go for walks or bike rides with others – just put six feet between you and chat a little louder than usual.

Fifth, keep in mind that the elderly and people with compromised health are at significantly increased risk over others from COVID-19. If you’re in that category, consider asking a relative, friend, or neighbor to run your errands. If you’re not in that category, offer to help out those who are. Says Sousa, “Do not visit nursing homes.”

Finally, if someone in your household is sick or might be getting sick, work on putting physical barriers as much as possible between that person and the healthy. Try to use separated areas for sleeping, eating, and bathroom needs.

This disease is now a pandemic, it is global. To stop it, we have to act locally. The charts and the experts tell us that time has come.

In fact, says Sousa, “The time actually came last week. We just weren’t on it.”

REMINDER: The City of East Lansing is under a State of Emergency and you are encouraged to practice social distancing. Read more about what the state of emergency means.

ELi has a special section dedicated to our reporting on COVID-19 for East Lansing. See it here and sign up for ELi’s mailer to stay informed

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