How Much Social Distance Is Enough?

woman with child at laptop near kitchen

Family Preparedness And Responses To Non-Pharmacologic Interventions During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Pandemics such as COVID-19 require a number of preparedness and response strategies for households and communities. In addition, COVID-19 models suggest that suspending large gatherings, closing schools, and other social distancing measures are likely to be the most effective non-pharmacologic interventions to stem the outbreak.

The success of these measures, however, lies in part with individuals, who must maintain social distance outside official spaces. Without knowledge of how families have prepared for and are responding to the pandemic, public health efforts to control the disease may be hampered by non-adherence to quarantine and other state-mandated interventions.

Led by Assistant Professor Gillian Tarr, PhD, CPH, and Associate Professor Marizen Ramirez, PhD, MPH, in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, this study includes surveying families of school-aged children (K-12), identified through multiple online recruitment strategies that are efficient and low-cost to facilitate rapid responses. The researchers will:

  1. Determine the preparations that families made prior to implementation of social distancing interventions and the extent to which these have met families’ needs.
  2. Identify stressors experienced by families following the implementation of social distancing interventions, measure how these stressors change during the outbreak, and identify coping mechanisms families have employed.
  3. Determine the number and nature of contacts families are having outside the family unit, and identify characteristics associated with adherence.
  4. Test the association between adherence to social distancing recommendations, quarantine, and lockdown and COVID-19 risk in the community.

“The information we gather on preparedness behaviors, adherence to social distancing guidelines, and their effect on disease risk and mental health can inform preparedness and social distancing guidelines as the outbreak continues,” said Tarr and Ramirez. “Additionally, this is not our last pandemic; understanding what preparatory measures were successful, and what factors may preclude families from adhering to social distancing can inform future public health responses.”

This project is supported by the UMN Campus Public Health Officer's CO:VID (Collaborative Outcomes: Visionary Innovation & Discovery) grants program, which support University of Minnesota faculty to catalyze and energize small-scale research projects designed to address and mitigate the COVID-19 virus and its associated risks.