Social Distancing: Why It’s Not Okay To Meet ‘Just One Friend’

‘Maybe visiting just this one friend should be okay.’ After being stuck indoors for weeks, this is one thought that’s crossed many, many minds across the globe. So many in fact, that two leading network epidemiologists, Steven Goodreau and Martina Morris, decided to create a new website just to answer this one question.

And here’s the answer that it gives.

That one seemingly simple visit, isn’t as simple as we think and could potentially undo the effect of the entire, carefully orchestrated Social Distancing initiative. Each household deciding to have contact with just one or two others, would lead to reconnecting most households in that community, providing easy means for the COVID-19 virus to spread.

Canva - Person Holding Covid Sign

Here’s what the website tells us:

  1. When the community follows no social distancing, it behaves like a giant cluster, where each household has plenty of social interactions including ones that could spread the COVID-19 virus.
  2. When the community follows social distancing, most households are isolated. The essential jobs still generate interactions in 26% of the community. This leaves most of the households with no potential exposure to the virus.
  3. When people visit ‘just one friend’, the community gets reconnected quickly, with 71% households connected in one large cluster. A single COVID-19 case in one of these households can potentially spread it to 3/4ths of the community.

As we know, the COVID-19 virus can spread through social interactions like hugging and kissing or even by just being in the same room. And social distancing measures like staying at home, wearing face masks and keeping at least six feet distance from others when out making essential trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, ensure that this spread is contained as much as possible, leading to a ‘flattening of the curve’.

Canva - Photo of Girl Using Black Smartphone

So, do meet the one friend. But online, for now. By not visiting them you’ll not just be helping your immediate neighbors, but ensuring your entire community’s safety. The way they are ensuring yours.

References

Skums, Pavel, et al. “Global transmission network of SARS-CoV-2: from outbreak to pandemic.” medRxiv (2020).