Well, it’s the most wonderful time of the year again. And as we head into the second weekend of the official holiday season, I want to urge you to stay safe.
I know it’s a drag. We’re all tired of pandemic life. And the temptation to do all the things you’d normally do during this time of year—like hosting or attending parties and spending hours out and about while Christmas shopping—is strong.
But needless to say, 2020 is not like any other year. And with COVID-19 cases spiking across the country, now is not the time to let your guard down. In fact, according to one new study, we should consider taking our protective measures one step—or perhaps, several feet—farther.
Droplets deliver a direct hit
By now, we all know the rules of social distancing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other global health authorities advise maintaining a six-foot distance between yourself and anyone you don’t live with.
Unfortunately, however, researchers in Singapore have discovered that six feet might not be far enough. These scientists estimated the paths that various sized droplets might travel between one person coughing and a person standing three to six feet away. And here’s what they found…
At a three-foot distance, a person in the path of a cough gets direct viral exposure, becoming covered with a whopping 65 percent of all the droplets coming from that cough.
This is a major problem, because most of those droplets are fat, wet, and extremely virus-laden. But unfortunately, while doubling the distance to six feet means fewer of these droplets reach the other person, a cough still delivers enough to potentially infect them.
There is some good news here though—which is that, in any case, these droplets tend to travel downward. Meaning that most of them land on the lower bodies of bystanders, and are less likely to be directly inhaled.
But your hands can still carry them from your skin or your clothing to your face when you touch it. Which is why it’s so important to wash your hands regularly, avoid touching surfaces, and change and wash your clothes often.
Aerosols are even more dangerous
Of course, as we discussed here before, droplets are just one way that viruses spread. Aerosols are another—and they may be even more dangerous.
These smaller aerosols come from the back of your throat when you breathe, talk, or sing. They dry out before they can reach the floor, which means that—unlike droplets—they can float in the air, potentially long after a person leaves the room. (Think about the way that cigarette smoke or perfume lingers, for instance.)
These smaller aerosols can also travel much longer distances than droplets. Which is why six-foot distances don’t magically make you safe. (And also why wearing a mask, limiting travel and social interactions, and dining at home remains so incredibly important.)
You’ll also want to be especially cautious if you happen to be shorter, as you’re more likely to be in the trajectory of both droplets and aerosols when a taller person coughs.
In the end, researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how this virus moves from person to person. And the suggestion to stay six feet apart is just a guesstimate—albeit an educated one.
These scientists from Singapore don’t disagree with the recommendation. But they do believe that farther is better, if you’d rather be safe than sorry. And in times like this, better safe than sorry sounds best to me.
With any luck, next year’s holiday season will signal a return of all the traditions that make this time of year so special. Until then, as always, I beg you to do your part in making sure that we all live to see that joyous day.
P.S. I talk all about safe ways to enjoy the holidays in the age of coronavirus in the November 2020 issue of my monthly Logical Health Alternatives newsletter. So if you haven’t already, consider becoming a subscriber today. I also encourage you to continue boosting your immune health while we fight against this virus. Which is why I outline all of my top recommendations in one convenient report: my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity.
“Coughs Can Send COVID Virus Farther Than 6 Feet.” WebMD. 11/05/2020. (webmd.com/lung/news/20201105/coughs-can-send-covid-virus-farther-than-6-feet)