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I'm an Infectious Disease Doctor and Beg You Stay This Far From People

New research challenges the current social distancing recommendations.

Early on in the pandemic, health experts and organizations—including the CDC and WHO—started stressing the importance of social distancing, Social distancing, "keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household," the CDC explains on their website. To practice social or physical distancing, they encouraged staying at least 6 feet (about 2 arms' length) from others in both indoor or outdoor spaces. However, according to new research, the recommended distance may not be enough. And one top infectious disease doctor agrees. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

'Droplets Could Travel Much Longer Distances'

British researchers recently proposed graded recommendations "that better reflect the multiple factors that combine to determine risk"—including whether indoors versus outdoors or exposure time to other people. The color coded diagram and analysis were published in The British Medical Journal this week, making the argument that the current rules on safe physical distancing are based on outdated science. "Evidence suggests SARS-CoV-2 may travel more than 2 m through activities such as coughing and shouting," the researcher wrote. 

Yale School of Medicine and Yale Medicine Infectious Disease Doctor Onyema Ogbuagu agrees, pointing out that virus droplets likely travel more than 6 feet. 

"Contemporary studies have looked at how much virus you send out into the air when coughing and sneezing and show droplets could travel much longer distances, especially with lighter particles," he tells Eat This, Not That! Health.

RELATED: Everything Dr. Fauci Has Said About Coronavirus

Here's How Far Apart You Should Stand

So how far should you stand? It depends where you are. 

"It matters if you are indoors vs outdoors," he explains. If outdoors, 6 feet is fine, as there is enough ventilation, but indoors, can't say how far is safe as recirculated air and small droplets can travel really far—one report showed it can be as far as 45 feet!" 

The data shows that when indoors, ventilation plays a huge role in indoor transmission. 

"Breathing out, singing, coughing, and sneezing generate warm, moist, high momentum gas clouds of exhaled air containing respiratory droplets. This moves the droplets faster than typical background air ventilation flows, keeps them concentrated, and can extend their range up to 7-8 m within a few seconds," the study explains. 

With the fall and winter months ahead, Dr. Ogbuagu stresses the importance of keeping air as ventilated and clean as possible. 

"Every environmental worker should pay attention to installing HEPA filters," he urges. So heed this advice, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah