Experts say social distancing will flatten the curve of coronavirus cases

WATCH: What is 'social distancing' and can it really make a difference?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A lot of terms have been thrown around as we continue to cover the coronavirus outbreak.

FOX13’s Investigative Reporter Leah Jordan found out what social distancing is and are we at a point where it can really make a difference.

Social distancing is a way to keep your distance from most people to avoid transmission of coronavirus, which the recommendation is to stay about six feet from others.

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The fact that we’re a bit ahead of a lot of community transmission is probably what gets people a bit.

Those people said since we haven't had any cases here, why are we even bothering.

That’s the whole point. If you get ahead of that curve.

But if it’s already all in the community, it’s probably too late for the maximal benefit for the social distancing strategy.

Dr. Stephen Threlkeld is an infectious disease specialist at Baptist Hospital.

He said social distancing is a historically proven method to reduce spikes in diseases and illnesses.

Even though so far there have only been two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Shelby County, Dr. Threlkeld said social distancing is important.

There is a picture that has circulated across social media.

Dr. Threlkeld told us it perfectly illustrates why social distancing is important.

“There’s a thing on the internet with a row of matches,” he said. “All of them are burned until one is pulled down and then ones after are not burned. They say all of the rest of them were saved by the one that was out of the field of battle.”

“That’s a real phenomenon. The more we can do that; you’re saving real lives of real grandparents by those sorts of maneuvers.”

Ways you can practice social distancing include getting food to-go instead of eating inside a restaurant, staying six feet away from others when possible and not going near high-risk folks.

Experts said what happens when we practice social distancing is we flatten the curve.

If people six months from now said we didn’t really need to do the social distancing and that was an overreaction, then it probably means it was perfect and it may have prevented a lot of diseases.

Dr. Threlkeld said by keeping your distance from others, or social distancing, it is an effective way to flatten the curve with coronavirus.

WATCH: What is mean by 'flattening the curve'

Flattening the curve is if you’re going to have 1000 cases in your community and the first curve looks like Mount Everest, it goes up with a lot of cases at once—we saw this in China and Italy—that can overwhelm the system.

You can only have so many people in the hospital and ICU at one time.

But with social distancing, people help to flatten the curve and keep hospitals functioning properly.

“The hope is we’ll stave off not just the total number, it may circulate throughout the community but at least the spike in cases,” he said. “The social distancing strategy can be very effective at slowing down or even eliminating some of the cases.”

To help flatten the curve, try to keep about six feet of distance from others, wash your hands even more regularly than you normally would, and avoid crowds.