We’ve been advised to stand 6 feet apart from others to lower our risk of getting infected with the coronavirus. But how can we tell whether we’re standing just far away enough from people, or if we need to tell them to back up a little bit more?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes, small drops of liquid spray from their nose or mouth. If you’re standing too close, you can breathe in the droplets, which may contain the coronavirus if the person coughing is infected, according to the World Health Organization.
The “6 feet of distance” rule comes from studies of respiratory physiology, said Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University.
“Without a cough or a sneeze, if we exhale, the distance 3 to 6 feet from each other is called the breathing zone. And it’s in that kind of volume of air that what I exhale begins to mix with the air that’s already in the room,” Schaffner said. “So if you’re standing within 3 to 6 feet of me, you may well inhale some of what I exhale. And of course if I have the virus, what I’m exhaling microscopically contains the virus.”
If you’re finding it hard to estimate what exactly 6 feet looks like, we’ve got a list of animals, people and things you can keep in mind to help you judge the appropriate distance you should keep from other people.
Two Golden Retrievers standing nose to tail
The average Golden Retriever has a body length of 37 to 42 inches. Two of these dogs should amount to just over 72 inches, or 6 feet.
A man wearing a top hat
A man of average height stands at 5 feet 9 inches tall – if that man wears a President Abraham Lincoln-esque top hat, he’d be just over the distance we’re advised to keep from others.
An average sedan
Think of the width of your car when trying to gauge an appropriate distance – an average large sedan is a little more than 6 feet wide.
A standard three-seat sofa can be up to 6 feet long – which means that you and the person sitting on the other end of it probably aren’t far away enough from each other.
A dining room table
Try imagining you and your friend sitting across from each other at a long, fancy dining table – some of them stretch 6 feet across.
The length of a mattress
The lengths of full- and twin-size beds are about 6.2 feet from top to bottom.
A moose’s antlers
A moose grows to be between 5 and 6.5 feet tall on average. That height doesn’t include its antlers, which can measure 6 feet across, according to National Geographic.
Two adult cats
Cat lovers may find it easy to commit this comparison to memory: Two male adult cats, at 35 inches each from their heads to the tips of their tails, can amount to nearly 72 inches.