This Is the Easiest Thing You Can Do to Cut Your Coronavirus Risk in Half

It takes just one second to make this risk-slashing adjustment.

With the rise of the novel coronavirus, we've seen increased regulations about how we live our daily lives—the most pressing rule being that of social distancing. But it seems not everyone is on the same page about exactly how much distance we need between us to keep safe: while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends keeping a minimum physical distance of one meter (or roughly three feet) between people, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends double that distance.

Thankfully, a recent report in the medical journal Lancet is here to settle the score. After completing a systematic review of 172 studies, the researchers concluded that keeping that extra three feet of distance between yourself and others can cut your risk of coronavirus infection in half.

Some scientists take it even further, insisting that the six-foot rule should be considered the bare minimum. While the six-foot recommendation is based on the notion that most large droplets from a cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within that distance, most is not a guarantee, and research increasingly indicates that smaller aerosol particles do have the capacity to travel further.

To that point, The New York Times recently reported that aerosol particles could lead to transmission at much greater distances, though it likely happens less frequently than close-contact transmission. "Even without the launching power of a sneeze, air currents could carry a flow of aerosol sized virus particles exhaled by an infected person 20 feet or more away," the authors of the article concluded.

Though there's little doubt that more distance is better, at a certain point we start to see diminishing returns on our investment of caution. In short, there may not be a "magic number" of feet that guarantees safety from coronavirus, but given the fact that six feet can slash your risk in half compared to three, it's certainly a good place to start. And for great ideas for solo activities that will keep you safe and busy, check out these 17 Things To Do By Yourself While You're Social Distancing.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more