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Isolation, Before and During a Pandemic

An elderly person wearing a mask looks out a brown wood frame window.
Many communities the ACLU works with were familiar with social isolation long before COVID-19 arrived. Here's what you can learn from them.
An elderly person wearing a mask looks out a brown wood frame window.
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April 14, 2020

As many Americans round out the end of their first month of social distancing, it’s clear that the toll of “stay at home” orders during the COVID-19 pandemic is much more than economic. The anxiety and fear that wash over us each day that we spend alone, away from friends, coworkers, and family, inflict their own kind of emotional damage.  

The cost of social isolation is a worthy cost in this case — staying home can quite literally save lives. But for some people, the advent of social isolation came long before the coronavirus. At the ACLU, we work with many communities who deal with the long-term impacts of social isolation: people living with disabilities who often experience accessibility issues, people held in detention, and people imprisoned in solitary confinement, just to name a few. 

Joining us on this episode of our podcast, At Liberty, is Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University who understands the psychological and physiological impacts of isolation, and how we can mitigate them for both ourselves and others. We also spoke with a few people — Anna Landre, TreShaun Pate, Jason Hernandez and Claire Goldberg — who know a thing or two about social distancing. Their circumstances have made them familiar with isolation long before COVID-19. Listen here to learn from their experiences, and for tips from Dr. Holt-Lunstad on how to ease the pain of isolation during this pandemic.