Mutual Safety: why we need to lookout for one another

Doctor taking prescription


By: Julia Borges, M.A.

What is mutual safety?

As the number of confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus continues to climb, people all over the world are preparing for its impacts. Some are stocking up on food, others are working from home, and some are choosing to self-isolate. Self-isolation is one of the most important steps we can take to slow the spread of this virus – and it’s not just for our own safety, it’s also for the safety of others. This is what we call mutual safety. In the case of this pandemic, it is when two or more parties take actions, such as self-isolation, to keep themselves and others from contracting the virus. Mutual safety is when we look beyond ourselves and take actions that increase the safety of others.
Why is it important?

Some might not see the value in keeping others safe, especially if panic is in the air and people are only looking out for themselves and their families. While this is a natural human response, practicing mutual safety not only helps others, but it can actually increase your safety and the safety of your loved ones. For example, let’s say one person, who lives in your community, has been infected with COVID-19 (whether they know it or not). Against CDC’s advice, they make the choice to continue with their daily routine – they go to work, the local grocery store, and finish the day off at the gym. That person has most likely infected multiple others in that one day. The people that have been infected from that one individual now infect several others, leading to an exponential growth in people with the Coronavirus. As this spreads, it increases the chances of you or your loved ones contracting the virus, just by the sheer number of cases that are now in your community. Hundreds of cases later, after putting many at risk, all of this could have been prevented if that one person made the choice to act out of mutual safety. We all have people we love or know people with loved ones who fall into these high-risk categories. They could be your parents, elderly grandparents, or someone close to you battling cancer. We have a social responsibility to look out for others, especially in a time like this, and make choices that keep others safe.


What are some ways I can practice mutual safety?

Stay home. Self-isolation is one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of this virus. Only leave your home for essential purposes: groceries, medical purposes, etc.
Sanitize. For some of us, staying home is just not an option. If this is the case, make sure you are taking necessary sanitization steps to ensure you do not contract or spread the virus (if there’s a chance you might have it).
Spread the word. There might be some people in your network that aren’t up to date with the current news and latest developments. Consider touching base with others and let them know what you’re doing to stay safe and discuss some things they can do to do the same.
Offer emotional support. Not only is this pandemic challenging our physical safety, but it’s challenging our psychological safety as well. These are uncertain times and stress levels are at an all-time high for some. Consider calling a friend just to see how they’re doing and offer support where needed.
Buy only what you need. Being prepared in a time like this is crucial, but do you really need everything that you’re buying, or are you buying out of panic? Ask yourself this question when making a grocery store run. There are other people out there who might really need that last bunch of toilet paper or canned good. Be prepared but think about others.