Vonderheide: Social distancing vital to health, safety


As more people start to venture out of their homes and into areas with other people, social distancing is being stressed even more.

“One of the biggest considerations for protecting our population is social distancing,” said Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide. “It’s critical that we continue under the governor’s direction and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] guidance to practice social distancing.”

Social distancing means keeping space between yourself and other people who are outside of your home. To do that, local health officials and the CDC recommend that people stay at least 6 feet from other people. Six feet is about 2 arms’ length.

The practice is included in the local “Together We Thrive” plan for reopening the county’s social and financial atmosphere. While the plan does not say the words “social distancing” in every category, the creators of the plan say in the opening letter that it will follow the guidance of the state.

“It is to be understood that Dubois County will follow the direction of the State of Indiana and Governor [Eric] Holcomb’s orders on re-opening,” according to the opening letter.

The “Together We Thrive” plan also stipulates social distancing within the various business categories.

“Social distancing, personal hygiene and the masks are probably the three biggest things we’re emphasizing,” Vonderheide said. “When we’re around the public, and we can’t avoid being socially distanced, then we must wear a mask.”

He added that the public is already supposed to be doing both — wearing a mask and social distancing in public.

“If you’re in public, you should be wearing a mask,” he said. “If you’re in public, you should be social distancing as well. It’s not an either/or; it’s and. It’s not only for your protection, but it’s for the protection of others in case you’re a carrier and not even know it.”

Vonderheide said he has noticed that people have become lax about their personal protective practices, especially since the phases for reopening the state’s economy were announced by the governor.

“Since the governor has said that we are entering this phase, people have misinterpreted that they don’t have to do anything to safeguard against COVID-19. That’s not true,” Vonderheide said. “The governor specifically stated that we continue to wear masks, we continue to social distance. And if you’re retail, you have to have a safety plan in place for you, your employees and your customers.”

The CDC states on its website that COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact for a prolonged period of time.

“Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby,” according to information on the agency’s website. “The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19.”

It’s also possible to get the virus by touching something that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes. “However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the CDC says. “COVID-19 can live for hours or days on a surface, depending on factors such as sunlight, humidity, and the type of surface. Social distancing helps limit opportunities to come in contact with contaminated surfaces and infected people outside the home.”

Social distancing should be taken seriously by every person, Vonderheide said.

“If you know that there’s a crowded area,” he said, “avoid the crowded area.”

Those who work in environments where social distancing is more difficult should be provided with protective gear.

State and local officials will not force people to follow the recommendations they have laid out. But they are strongly encouraging them.

“The government is making recommendations. It’s not martial law. We’re not going out and arresting people. But we want people to make good judgments, good decisions,” Vonderheide said. “As individuals, we’re not without our own responsibility to safeguard our safety, health and well-being. We can’t expect the government to protect us from everything.”

It is up to each person to be diligent in carrying out safety safeguards for themselves.

“We are each responsible for putting ourselves in an environment where it’s not safe. So if there is a retail shop that is open that is not practicing what they should be, it’s up to us to bring it to their attention and/or avoid going there again until it’s corrected,” Vonderheide said. “If consumers know that those serving them food in the restaurant are supposed to be wearing masks and they’re not, they should not go to that restaurant.

“Every individual has to be responsible for them, for their own health and safety, and [be aware of] the environment they put themselves into.”

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