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Why We Should Say ‘Physical Distancing,’ Not ‘Social Distancing’

A sign on the side of the 710 freeway reminds drivers to maintain social distance. Chava Sanchez/LAist
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Just when we’ve all gotten used to the term “social distancing,” the World Health Organization and other public officials have started urging us to change our phrasing to “physical distancing.”

You hear California Gov. Gavin Newsom use it in every press briefing, and UCLA’s Dr. Robert Kim-Farley agrees it's the right way to talk about it. He’s with the Fielding School of Public Health and is a former staffer with the Centers For Disease Control (CDC).

“I really actually prefer and I've now been using it ... this concept of physical distance ... because we want to keep people physically apart, but actually we want to be promoting social bonding."

Prof. Daniel Aldrich echoes the sentiment. He's the director of the Security and Resilience program at Northeastern University.
“Physical distance is much more concrete. It says you should keep your physical distance. It's direct. Social distancing is a term of art for epidemiology, which is great. And if people know what that means, more power to them... I think 'physical distancing' makes it quite clear. The only thing that we're separating is the space between us. We're not cutting off those ties.”

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