Legislating in the Age of COVID-19: Social Distancing



The culture of physically distancing

It’s widely known and studied that humans as a species are very social – in fact, we require social interaction to remain healthy. But we also, culturally, have varying degrees of comfortable ‘personal space’ – ‘the physical space into which any encroachment feels threatening or uncomfortable.’ Our toleration for closeness can differ depending on the social situation. Among friends, you might sit within inches of each other, but in crowds or in professional gatherings, distancing brings more relief.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, maintaining personal space took on a new meaning and a new level of importance. Enter the concept of ‘Social Distancing’ defined as ‘the practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance (such as six feet or more) from other people during the outbreak of a contagious disease.’ Six feet is a drastic difference from inches or even 2 to 3 feet in a business meeting or shopping experience.

Social distance becomes a social norm during COVID-19

One of the first recommendations offered by the medical community and the White House was maintaining a safe distance (no less than 6 feet) between individuals in public at all times. This recommendation has continued to be a mainstay of preventive measures against contracting COVID-19 and is a primary requirement as businesses, entertainment venues, and faith-based settings begin to reopen.

Legislating to reinforce health guidelines

Recommendations don’t automatically mean that everyone will comply. And over the past several weeks, seasonal behavior patterns (going to the beach, attending block or house parties), non-compliant bar and nightclub gatherings, and other large social gatherings have been problematic with physical distancing efforts.

To encourage better compliance, local governments are taking legislative steps. Many, including several of our client communities, are drafting and adopting ordinances and resolutions to reinforce and mandate physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Useful examples from the eCode360® Library

If your community is interested in legislating social/physical distancing, a search of our eCode360 Library will help you see what other communities are already doing. Some examples* include:

City of Laurie, MO – Declaration of State of Emergency

City of North Wildwood, NJ – Peace and Good Order Amendment

Updating municipal codes is vitally important

As municipalities and counties continue to meet the challenges of being pandemic frontliners, focusing on the safety of our neighbors is a chief and overriding concern. To sustain orderly and accessible knowledge of the most current regulations and resolutions, it’s crucial to update and maintain municipal and county codes in a timely manner.

We encourage our clients to submit code updates as soon as possible to make sure constituents and local government officials are referencing and working with the most up-to-date resources at all times. Clients can send legislation to [email protected].

Best practices for managing your codification budget

Many of our client communities find it helpful to be on a code update schedule to help manage their expenses throughout the year. Our Client Care Advocates can work with you and explain the options and benefits of scheduled code updates. They can also provide budget guidance for all of your future codification needs, including eCode360 and common code maintenance. Give them a call at 800.836.8834 or send an email to [email protected]. They’d be happy to help or answer any other codification questions you might have.

Resources:

www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/04/24/how-close-is-too-close-depends-on-where-you-live/

www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/social-evolution-and-why-we-need-to-communicate

www.lexico.com/en/definition/personal_space

www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2017/04/how-we-define-personal-space-varies-person-person-and-country-country/

www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20distancing

www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html

www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/

www.washingtonpost.com/local/maryland-virginia-dc-coronavirus-increases/2020/07/24/216aadf6-cc4e-11ea-b0e3-d55bda07d66a_story.html

www.cleveland.com/news/2020/07/informal-gatherings-like-barbecues-house-parties-often-linked-to-ohio-coronavirus-cases.html

www.indystar.com/story/entertainment/dining/bars/2020/07/24/indianapolis-coronavirus-bars-close-restaurants-indoor-dining-restrictions/5496749002/

*Your Municipal Attorney should be consulted with regard to content, format and the legal requirements of proposed legislation before enactment.


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