Questions for ‘Six foot social-distancing will not always be enough for COVID-19’

Vancouver park scene

A sign in a Vancouver park warns pedestrians to stay two meters (six feet) apart to avoid coronavirus infection. But that may not be far enough to be safe under all conditions.

GoToVan/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

To accompany feature “Six foot social-distancing will not always be enough for COVID-19”


Before Reading:

1.  What is social distancing and why have government officials across the globe been recommending that people practice it?

2.  Why is social distancing important even for people who frequently wash their hands?

During Reading:

1.  What made the April 8, 2020 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report a cautionary tale about the value of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

2.  According to the story, when it comes to transmitting viruses and other germs, why have researchers worried mainly about bigger spit droplets?

3.  How far can those bigger droplets travel?

4.  Qingyan Chen of Purdue University described indirect contact as a possible way people might become infected people with the new coronavirus. What is an example of such indirect contact?

5.  What is an aerosol?

6.  Lydia Bourouiba of MIT reported data on sneezes. How far did she say a sneeze can travel?

7.  How fast did Eric Savory of the University of Western Ontario and his team find that coughs can propel aerosols?

8.  What special thing did Kári Stefánsson of deCODE Genetics and his team learn about the people they tested for COVID-19 in Iceland?

9.  Why does William Ristenpart at UC Davis argue that there is “a compelling case” to be made that just talking can share infectious viruses?

10.  Outdoors, runners risk stepping into another person’s cloud of exhaled air. How risky is that, according to virologist Julian Tang at the University of Leicester?

After Reading:

1.  Based on what you have read, what distance do you think you should keep from strangers when you are at a store or other indoor venue (other than home)? What about outdoors? How would that comfortable distance change for you if you were wearing a mask? If the strangers were wearing masks? Explain your reasoning.

2.  If there is a local coronavirus outbreak near you when you have to go to school and you have never yet come down with COVID-19, how would you prepare to get to school to minimize your risk of becoming infected? What precautions would you take at school every day? Based on what you’ve learned here, what activities would likely pose the greatest risks of infection on a school day — and why? What precautions could you take to minimize those risks?