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Six Feet Not Far Enough Apart for COVID-19 Social Distancing

Published: 2020-04-06 - Updated: 2022-11-26
Author: Disabled World | Contact: Disabled World (www.disabled-world.com)
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Coronavirus Information Publications

Synopsis: Article looks at examples of why social distancing should be a far greater distance than the recommended six feet currently advocated. If an oncoming hiker coughs just before you pass, you're probably walking through a cloud of viruses suspended in the air... A study found that under the right conditions, liquid droplets from sneezes, coughs, and exhaling can travel more than 26 feet - and linger in the air for minutes.

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Studies, coupled with the high number of potentially asymptomatic people, have prompted the U.S. CDC to recommend that all Americans wear cloth masks in public. "There are micro-droplets, and they can stay in the air for a while," said Dr. Scott Miscovich with Hawaii's coronavirus task force.

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Global experts in aerosol science also alarm that current guidelines and regulations, which include the six-foot rule, may not be enough to keep people safe in public settings. Lydia Bourouiba, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor, contends that those recommendations may need to push another 20-plus feet.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that even the simple act of talking can produce hundreds of tiny droplets that can potentially carry viruses and remain in the air from 8 -14 minutes.

Richard Corsi, a Portland State University dean, has also studied the spread of COVID-19 through both large and tiny droplets in the air and recommends people stay 20 feet away from each other when they’re outdoors. If an oncoming hiker coughs just before you pass, "you're probably walking through a cloud of viruses that stay suspended in air," Corsi said.

Germs that carry viruses can travel much farther by simply breathing or talking. And, if the wind is blowing, it can travel even greater distances and blow right to you. In addition, pathogens, such as a sneeze cloud, could potentially reach air circulation systems inside buildings. Sampling has been done in air vents with positive virus detection.

"Aerosols - (micron-size droplets) - are different," says Dr. Stanley Deresinski, clinical professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Stanford University. "Tiny particles may be suspended in the air for long, sometimes for hours. Air currents suspend them."

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that under the right conditions, liquid droplets from sneezes, coughs, and just exhaling can travel more than 26 feet - and linger in the air for minutes.

Cartoon figures of a man and woman holding a sign that says Stay at Home.
Cartoon figures of a man and woman holding a sign that says Stay at Home.

Hypothetical Examples of 6-Foot Rule Not Being Far Enough

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reviewed transmission reports and says more peer-reviewed tests are needed before they change their social distancing guidelines.

The only sure way to prevent yourself from getting infected by COVID-19 is by staying indoors and away from other people. Go out only as needed for essential trips to collect food, medicine, or brief exercise.

Anger Spreads Against COVID-19 Anti-vaxxers As Cases Rise

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Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2020, April 6). Six Feet Not Far Enough Apart for COVID-19 Social Distancing. Disabled World. Retrieved January 29, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/health/influenza/coronavirus/six-feet.php

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