Put simply, social distancing means limiting personal contact with other people.
The public definition of social distancing has become stricter as this pandemic has progressed. The CDC defines social distancing as: "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible." But, definitions of “congregant settings” and “mass gatherings” have remained vague.
You can practice social distancing through your own choices to limit travel, to cancel or not attend group gatherings, and to avoid public AND personal settings where groups of people may be interacting. The most recent federal government recommendation, from the President’s Task Force, is fewer than 10 people. One point to remember is that every individual in your interaction network is also interacting with people outside of your network. The more varied and more active the people in your network, the more likely the virus is to spread to you and others in your household.
Your community and community groups may promote or enforce social distancing measures through school closures and distance learning, encouraging or requiring some work be done remotely, restricting restaurant services to drive-through, carryout or delivery only, etc. All of these actions are intended to limit interpersonal contact and to slow the spread of the disease as possible.
Individuals and families will have to make their own decisions within the boundaries of what community, county, state, and federal authorities are requiring and enforcing. We understand that work obligations and childcare and senior care options are especially limiting for some families. We recommend, however, that you practice social distancing as strictly as possible for your family and household.
More people might be familiar with the concepts of quarantine (separation of people believed to have been exposed, but not yet symptomatic) or isolation (separation of people known to be infected or contagious). The CDC is recommending a 14-day quarantine period for asymptomatic people known to have been exposed.
People with COVID-19 have been shown to be infectious before they are symptomatic. However, testing is not currently available for asymptomatic people with no history of exposure.
Read this helpful and easy-to-read online report based on interviews with CDC and Johns Hopkins University. Another article on social distancing can be found at Medium: Social distancing - this is not a snow day.