CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom — Although the “six-foot rule” has been a staple of coronavirus safety measure since 2020, is it really doing anything to keep people healthy? A new study finds the answer to that appears to be a resounding no. Scientists from the University of Cambridge say the social distancing rule of six feet does not protect against catching COVID-19, even outdoors.
The team calls the social distancing rule an “arbitrary measurement” of safety in the absence of masks. It could have been set anywhere between three to 10 feet, depending on the risk tolerance of the local public health authority putting out the mandate.
Infected individuals spread the virus through coughing, speaking, and even breathing. People expel larger droplets that eventually settle on surfaces or break into smaller aerosols that may float through the air. The study used computer modelling to quantify how these infectious particles travel. Results show coughs vary widely when it comes to expelling particles.
“I remember hearing lots about how COVID-19 was spreading via door handles in early 2020, and I thought to myself if that were the case, then the virus must leave an infected person and land on the surface or disperse in the air through fluid mechanical processes,” says lead author Professor Epaminondas Mastorakos in a university release.
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