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20 Photos That Will Define the Era of Social Distancing

While eerie and disconcerting, these photos do show that we're all going through the same thing right now.

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An entrance is closed off at Union Station on April 3, 2020 in Washington, DC
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The new normal

Chances are you’ve been glued to the news lately, or at least checking it a few times a day. If that’s the case, you’re being inundated with words, reports, and statistics, which can be terrifying and downright exhausting. Well, it’s like the old saying: A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are some photos from all around the world that really encapsulate the strange, isolating time we’re all living through.

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Beaches closed

On March 31, 2020, caution tape blocks off this closed Hollywood, Florida beach. This visitor from Minnesota has set up her beach chair on the beach’s walkway, just outside the tape.

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Lone jogger

The usually bustling National Mall in front of the Washington Monument is deserted except for a single jogger on the morning of March 31.

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Elbow bump

This photo was taken after the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing on March 30. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, exchanges an “elbow bump” with Jim Acosta of CNN. What started as a somewhat facetious way to avoid shaking hands evolved into a legitimate safety-conscious greeting. The prevalence of shaking hands is one of the everyday habits that could change after coronavirus.

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Support from Spain

In Madrid, Spain, a man confined to his home applauds for healthcare workers as the colors of the Spanish flag hang from his and nearby balconies.

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Eiffel Tower

Paris’ Eiffel Tower, the icon of France, displays the words “AT HOME” for the more than two million Parisians. Throughout this period of distancing, the lights of the tower have shown this message as well as one thanking essential workers.

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Awaiting tests

A member of the National Guard maintains social distance as he informs people when to expect results of their COVID-19 tests. The testing center where this photo was taken, at Lehman College in the Bronx, can test as many as 500 people a day.

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Serene station

New York’s Grand Central Station, a place that usually epitomizes bustle and business, is nearly deserted on March 22. Ease the quarantine wanderlust with these virtual day trips to can take online.

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Solitude in Singapore

Another normally bustling place is downright ghostly in this April 1 photo of the Central Business District in Singapore, deserted except for a single man with a mask. Here’s what “N95” actually stands for in those N95 masks.

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Distance yoga

On March 26, a Long Island resident measures seven feet between yoga mats as her neighbor, a yoga instructor, prepares to hold an outdoor yoga class. The gyms where she teaches have all closed and she’s making an effort to continue to work while keeping people safe. How close is too close when it comes to personal space?

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Hong Kong wedding

After Hong Kong initially seemed to be keeping the COVID-19 spread relatively contained, it experienced another surge of cases after starting to return to normalcy. Now, gatherings in the city are advised to be limited to four or fewer people, with some exceptions. In one such instance on March 29, a wedding party poses for photos—with all but the bride and groom wearing protective masks.

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Drive-in movie

One type of business that’s actually seen a boost in activity during this time is drive-in movie theaters! This particular theater, in Mount Pleasant, Utah, even opened early to allow people to continue seeing movies. On March 27, families take part in this social distance–approved activity, watching Pixar’s Onward. By the way, Onward, which debuted in movie theaters in early March just before things got crazy, is now available for purchase and will drop on Disney Plus on April 3. Here are some more things you didn’t realize were available online.

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Disney deserted

One of the things that really drove home the severity of the COVID-19 crisis for many people was the closure of Disney parks. Here, an overhead shot taken on March 23 shows an eerily empty Main Street in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Remote learning

A staffer at a Silver Spring, Maryland, elementary school, wearing a protective mask, hands laptops through the window of a car so that students can participate in distance learning at home. This woman has homeschooled her children for three years—here are her tips for this quarantine.

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Baseball on hold

Another taken-for-granted event that the world went without this year is Opening Day for baseball. Citi Field in Flushing, New York, home of the New York Mets, looms above a completely empty parking lot on the canceled Opening Day on March 26.

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Pass the Purell

In New Delhi, India, mask-clad law enforcement officers share hand sanitizer while out enforcing a city-wide lockdown on March 23. A day later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a national lockdown.

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Buckingham Palace

Another normally popular tourist attraction, London’s Buckingham Palace, is devoid of visitors except for this lone passerby on April 1. Even the British royals have not been exempt from COVID-19; Queen Elizabeth II has been in quarantine since March 19 and Prince Charles has even tested positive, as has the U.K.’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Here’s how much the coronavirus is costing the world so far.

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Word to drivers

Also in the United Kingdom, a sign above a Glasgow, Scotland, highway advises travelers to avoid all but essential travel to help flatten the COVID-19 curve. (Notice that the sign is over the left side of the road!) No matter where you are in the world, though, you’ve probably seen a sign like this if you’ve been on a major highway like this in the past few weeks.

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Stay home from school

Sadly, many high school students, seniors included, won’t be able to attend school for the entire rest of the year. This particular school, Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, California, displays a banner reading “Wash Your Hands, Stay Safe.” It contrasts with the bright red “Campus Closed to the Public” sign, a stark reminder that school is not in session.

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Helping out

In Aylesford, England, a former member of the 1st Battalion of the Welsh Guards brings meals to an elderly woman in her home. He’s one of many volunteers helping out vulnerable people, and a local pub has been cooking fresh meals for the volunteers to deliver.

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Troubled tree

Someone in Melbourne, Australia, is maintaining a sense of humor in spite of everything. They’ve painted a face on this tree in a Melbourne park and attached a face mask to where the mouth would be, pretty much summing up how we’re all feeling. For a change of pace, check out these more calming pictures we could all use right now.

Next, take a look at our Coronavirus Guide to discover more ways to stay sane, keep your family safe, and make the most of together time.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.