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What in the world does that mean?: Immunocompromised populations and social isolation

By in Culture

As the novel coronavirus con­tinues to spread, so does misin­formation regarding it. When it comes down to it, everyone seems to have an opinion on how the virus is being handled.

Suddenly, everyone is an ex­pert in infectious disease and immunology, even that one guy on Facebook who likes to wax philosophical about why social distancing is dumb and wasn’t going to stop him from partying this weekend.

We’re all hearing the terms “immunocompromised popula­tions” and “social distancing” get thrown around and while we can hazard a guess, we all have dif­ferent understandings of exactly what this means.

Immunocompromised popu­lations refer to groups of people whose immune systems are more susceptible to disease due to a pre-existing health condition. This includes the elderly, people with multiple diagnoses and peo­ple with chronic conditions.

Since we can’t tell from physi­cal appearance whether a person is immunocompromised or not, social distancing is a great cover­all method to make sure we’re not putting vulnerable people at risk.

Social distancing is a proven principle in epidemiology — a branch of medicine that stud­ies the outbreak and control of diseases — and is absolutely critical to fighting the spread of COVID-19.

Social distancing functions similarly to herd immunity in the sense that we can protect people with compromised immune sys­tems by reducing the possibility of their contact with the disease.

‘But what exactly does social distancing mean?’ you might ask.

First of all, one thing we can get out of the way is what social distancing is not. Social distanc­ing is not avoiding public places but still going to see your signif­icant other. It also isn’t meeting up with friends but staying two metres apart while you hang out.

The Government of Canada’s official description of social dis­tancing is “making changes in your everyday routines in order to minimize close contact with others.”

While this means avoiding crowded places, staying two me­tres apart and avoiding contact with immunocompromised and higher-risk populations such as the elderly or chronically ill, it also means that Saturday night beer pong with the boys are post­poned until further notice. Same goes for wine night with the girls.

If you need to talk to your grandparents, there has never been a better time for them to learn how to work FaceTime.

However, with the advent of video chat software and fast product delivery services we’ve never been more prepared for so­cial isolation. And that’s not even mentioning the extremely brave but taxing work being done by healthcare professionals all over the world. It is easier now than ever to keep in touch with loved ones and keep ourselves occu­pied while we’re at home.

If nothing else convinces you to stay home, maybe the $2,000 fine that has been imposed by the Saskatchewan government for travellers violating self-isolation orders. Also, police in Saskatch­ewan can now enforce public health and emergency orders — you can be arrested for breaking social distancing rules.

And have you heard of an easier way of saving the world? Sitting at home doing nothing? Sounds like my kind of super­power.

Tomilola Ojo | Culture Editor

Graphic: Aqsa Hussain | Layout Manager

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