Staying six feet apart

Submitted by the Washington State Department of Health

The number of people getting COVID-19 every day in Washington is higher now than it has ever been. Hospitalization rates are rising throughout the state. The good news is, we have all the tools we need to stop the spread of COVID-19. And changing our personal behavior makes a difference.

We stay at least six feet away from other people because the tiny droplets that we exhale as we breathe can travel about six feet away from us, especially if we cough or sneeze. If you stay six feet away from everyone else, the chances that anyone else’s droplets reach you is much smaller. And if you and the people around you are also wearing cloth face coverings, the risk is lower still!

How far away is six feet?

Love precision? Great! Get out the yardstick and let’s get measuring! This is a good approach when setting up chairs for a small outdoor get-together. It can be hard to estimate how many chairs you can set under an awning or in a circle while making sure the people in those chairs stay at least six feet apart.

Love technology? There may already be a measuring app on your smartphone. You can use this to quickly estimate how far away you are from other people.

Have a great visual memory? Let’s start estimating.

• Your wingspan is probably just less than six feet. Set up your lawn chairs farther apart than the distance you could touch with both your arms straight out from your shoulders. Alternatively, if you reach one arm out towards a friend, and your friend reaches out their arm, your hands should not be able to touch and there should be several inches of space between your hands. If it helps, the wingspan of a bald eagle is also about six terrifying feet.

• The sidewalk is probably closer to five feet. To actually get six feet away from someone walking towards you on a sidewalk, one of you will need to step into the grass or the road. Step carefully, look out for traffic, and give a friendly wave.

• In the grocery store, stay about two shopping carts away from the next closest person.

• A parking space is generally more than six feet wide. Imagine being able to park a pickup truck between you and your (physically) closest friend.

• A hammock or a twin mattress is about six feet long. Could someone lounge between you and the next closest person?

• Or you could imagine two large dogs standing head to tail between you and your friend. Or three Coho salmon. Or 12 large slugs.

Practice compassion. Help keep your neighbors safe. Stay home as much as possible, and when you do go out, work together to stay six feet apart and cover your face.