Doctor discusses importance of social distancing during COVID-19 outbreak

Posted at 7:49 AM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 11:24:25-04

BOISE, Idaho — Earlier this week, Governor Brad Little issued a 21-day statewide stay-at-home order as cases of coronavirus continue to climb across Idaho. 6 On Your Side spoke with one local doctor on the importance of the order.

Last weekend, only days before the order, groups continued to gather at local parks and other spots across the Treasure Valley. Chief Medical Officer for Saint Alphonsus Dr. Ryan Heyborne says right now is a critical point for the state, urging people to stay indoors and try to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"I recognize that we're Idahoans. We love to be independent, we love to get outside, we love to gather, but right now it's crucial that we try to stop the spread of this virus as much as possible and the governor is dead-on," said Dr. Heyborne. "By avoiding those crowds, by following his direction, we're very likely to be able to do that."

While it's suggested to remain indoors as much as possible, there are ways to safely enjoy some time outdoors or to run your errands.

"Safest way is to maintain that distance, you know, six feet is a social distance. Good hand washing, and the stores I've been to as needed have some sanitizing wipes for the handle of the cart. It's important to use those," said Dr. Heyborne.

As for staying inside, even if you aren't alone, quarantining can still be a stressful and anxiety-filled time. Dr. Heyborne says it's crucial we don't self-isolate socially, despite any physical restrictions we should follow.

"What people are feeling is valid. People are grieving. People are feeling anxiety about this, and maintaining those social connections--whether it's through FaceTime, Skype, talking to people on the phone, talking about your feelings, blogging, going outside and enjoying the weather as best you can while maintaining that social distance," said Dr. Heyborne.

Right now, hospitals and medical centers across the country are seeing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Here in the Treasure Valley, several groups are teaming up to help collect donations of PPE to supplement the need locally.

Dr. Heyborne says for now they're sufficiently stocked, but that will continue to dwindle, depending on how coronavirus evolves in the Gem State. He says he expects the biggest need to be for face masks, gloves, and gowns, much like the rest of the country.

Other needs include blood donations. This week, Saint Alphonsus hosted two blood drives, but Dr. Heyborne says more is still needed. More information on how to safely donate blood can be found here.

For more on coronavirus in Idaho, click here. Dr. Heyborne also suggests checking the CDC website for the latest guidelines and advisories.