Spotlight on the 2nd “W”: WAIT 6 Feet Apart

Social distancing is critical to mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. There is irrefutably a strong association between proximity of the exposed person to the source and the ultimate risk of infection. Researchers found that keeping 6 feet of distance between oneself and a contagious person reduces the risk of infection five fold, with the risk halving for every additional 1.5 feet of distance up to 12 feet. The prominence of asymptomatic transmission (stated another way, the contagiousness of carriers who display no symptoms) coupled with a lengthy incubation period of up to 14 days means that it is almost always erroneous to assume that a given individual at a given moment does not have COVID-19. Limiting face-to-face contact with others is the single most effective way to prevent contracting COVID-19 yourself and to avoid spreading it to others if you are sick (or are an unsuspecting, asymptomatic carrier). Older adults need to adhere to the resounding recommendation of all public health officials and stay at home to the greatest extent possible, leaving home only when necessary.

When you must leave home, to practice social distancing effectively, pay heed to the following:

• Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between yourself and others. “Others” includes anyone who does not live in your household, whether they are family members, friends, loved ones, or complete strangers.

• Do not gather in groups, especially indoors. If you decide to dine-in at a local restaurant, do so only with the company of a person who lives in your household. It is impossible to maintain 6 feet of distance, keep a mask on, and share a meal or drink.

• Stay out of crowded spaces and avoid mass gatherings.

• Understand that maintaining a distance of 6 feet (or more) from others is most effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 when practiced in conjunction with mask wearing and frequent hand washing.