Since the advent of the coronavirus in the United States, we have been told over and over again by every government official and health professional that we should practice social distancing.
To reinforce the importance of social distancing, we have been bombarded with slogans like “Shop smart, stay 6 feet apart,” “Do your part, stay 6 feet apart,” “Safety first, stay 6 feet apart.” And my favorite: “6 feet apart or 6 feet under.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Limiting close face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).” We should all practice social distancing, which the CDC explains as: “To practice social or physical distancing, stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.”
COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. … Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible, even if you—or they—do not have any symptoms.
Here are the CDC “tips for social distancing”:
When going out in public, it is important to stay at least 6 feet away from other people and wear a cloth face covering to slow the spread of COVID-19.
When using rideshares or taxis, avoid pooled rides where multiple passengers are picked up, and sit in the back seat in larger vehicles so you can remain at least 6 feet away from the driver.
Only visit stores selling household essentials in person when you absolutely need to, and stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not from your household while shopping and in lines.
It is safest to avoid crowded places and gatherings where it may be difficult to stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not from your household.
If you are in a crowded space, try to keep 6 feet of space between yourself and others at all times, and wear a cloth face covering.
Consider going for a walk, bike ride, or wheelchair roll in your neighborhood or in another safe location where you can maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and other pedestrians and cyclists.
But what if we are wrong?
According to guidance from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service: “Keep your distance from people not in your household (2 metres apart where possible).” “Stay two meters apart. It’s not such a difficult thing. Do it,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
There is just one problem. Six feet does not equal two meters.
Seventy-two inches equals 6 feet.
One inch equals 0.0254 meters.
Two meters equals 78.74015748 inches.
Two meters equals 6ft 6.74015748 inches.
What if the British are right and the Americans are wrong? What if the Americans are wrong by 6.74015748 inches? Instead of social distancing by 78.74015748 inches, we have only been social distancing by 72 inches. How may fewer cases of Covid-19 would the United States have had if only we had practiced an extra 6.74015748 inches of social distancing? How much sooner could we have ended the lockdowns if only we had practiced an extra 6.74015748 inches of social distancing? How many fewer hospitalizations would the United States have had if only we had practiced an extra 6.74015748 inches of social distancing? How much suffering could have been alleviated if only we had practiced an extra 6.74015748 inches of social distancing? How many lives could have been saved if only we had practiced an extra 6.74015748 inches of social distancing?
But wait a minute. According to the Australian government Department of Health: “One way to slow the spread of viruses, such as coronavirus, is physical distancing. The more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread. As states and territories ease restrictions, it is important everyone continues to stay 1.5 metres away from others wherever possible.”
One and a half meters is less than 2 meters.
One and a half meters is less than 6 feet.
One and a half meters equals just 59.05512 inches.
The conclusion seems inescapable: Australians are doomed.
Or perhaps social distancing of 6 feet, 2 meters, and 1.5 meters are all arbitrary numbers that mean absolutely nothing.