They're changing the script on us, distancers.
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Big, BIG news from the WHO and CDC, social distancers: We're not doing social distancing anymore.

Naturally, now that this phrase none of us had ever heard of before last month has become indelibly inked into our cultural lexicon, the good folks at the World Health Organization and the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (a good journalist would have used the full names on first reference because those are The Rules, but I'm no longer a good journalist, so eff it) have changed the game.

Apparently the WHO has been watching all our forlorn Instagram stories about sadly looking at neighbors through panes of window glass and decided there's a better way to talk about what we're doing that reminds us all that we're not supposed to be pretending our loved ones don't exist; we're just not supposed to be in the same room together.

Last week, the WHO started swapping out "social distancing" for a new term. Are you ready?

Physical distancing.

I know you're looking at the calendar right now and giving me the old side-eye, but I promise this is not an April Fools' joke.

Why wasn't this much better term the one we were all taught from the start? I suppose the middle of a pandemic isn't the time you want to bring in a branding team, and the WHO probably has bigger matters on its hands than focus-grouping emergency public health measures to make sure the names ping the right way, but still. We just got used to saying the first version. I literally named this newsletter after it. People are printing up merch.

Who knows when (or if) the name change will start to catch on out here among the general population, but considering how quickly many of us managed to become expert epidemiologists, I'm confident we can pull off this minor but significant midstream lane change. The great news is that since time now moves at the speed of a small child who has been asked to help pick up toys for five minutes, it will probably be a week at most before we're all public health hipsters, talking about how we were physical distancing back when it was social distancing and you can't really appreciate its contemporary releases unless you heard it live with the original lineup.

(Why yes, I did used to be really into guys who were obnoxious music snobs back when I was single. How can you tell?)

Along with the rebrand, the CDC now has a page on its website that's dedicated to "Physical Distancing & the Joy of Joining In," where you can find helpful tips for putting the Social back into your Distance. Ideas include:

  • Play a board game
  • Tour a virtual museum
  • Perform science experiments
  • Call your family

There's also a link to free "Ready Wrigley" disaster preparedness coloring books that you can download, but given that our collective children have all had their friends, classrooms, activities, graduations, vacations and joys of daily living yanked out from under them, I don't really know that this is the best opportunity to remind them that natural disasters also exist. As a parent, that's anxiety I'm willing to shoulder on their behalf for the time being.

And no, I will not be changing the name of this newsletter, at least not right now. The WHO can do whatever it wants with its captive audience, but I don't have the budget for a rebrand this quarter.

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