This Is Exactly How Far You Should Sit From Someone With COVID Symptoms

Before you go out to eat or get on the bus, make sure you're keeping this much space from others.

Thanks to constant reminders from the nation's top health agencies, the cardinal rules of coronavirus have become easy to remember: Wash your hands, wear a face mask, and maintain social distancing to keep yourself and others safe. But certain activities don't always make it easy to follow that third guideline—especially when it comes to dining out, traveling, or even just enjoying an afternoon at the park. So, exactly how far should you be from those around you? Based on recent research, you should try to sit the equivalent of two rows away from anyone, especially if they have COVID symptoms.

To reach this finding, the paper, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, examined 24 members of a tourist group on a flight between Tel Aviv, Israel, and Frankfurt, Germany, with seven travelers testing positive for the virus upon arrival. A later assessment of the plane's passengers found that two additional cases were likely the result of transmission during the flight—with both newly infected passengers sitting within two rows of the contagious travelers.

Travelers on a plane wearing face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic

The study's authors admit that the direction of airflow on the plane, the lack of face masks, and missing data from some passengers may help explain some of the findings. But they still ultimately uphold the idea that six feet of distance—or two meters, which is approximately the length of space created by two rows of airline seating—drastically reduces the likelihood of contracting COVID-19, even in an enclosed space such as an airplane cabin.

How do these findings stack up against other research? A study published in June in the medical journal The Lancet found that keeping at least one meter of space between people was usually sufficient to protect against transmission of the virus. But it also found that the risk of infection dropped from 13 percent at that range to less than 3 percent when the distance was increased. And research from the U.K.'s committee of scientific advisers found that people being just over three feet apart carries between two and ten times the risk of being six feet apart, the BBC reported.

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Overall, medical experts still recommend that combining social distancing with wearing a face mask and regular hand washing are the best way to protect against contracting coronavirus. And for more danger zones, check out This One Place Is Where You're Most Likely to Get COVID, Study Finds.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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