Better Six Feet Apart Than Six Feet Under

The Importance of Social Distancing


While many stores have installed signs to remind the public to stay at least six feet apart from each other, the message doesn’t seem to be getting through. (The Harrodsburg Herald/Robert Moore)

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

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Since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in the U.S. back on Jan. 12, people have been bombarded with health advice, much of it contradictory. First it wasn’t necessary to wear masks in public. Then it was suggested that we should wear masks in public. Various public figures have recommended everything from copper disks to clean our hands to fishtank cleaner to kill the coronavirus. There is very little proof that any of this will work.

But one piece of advice has remained consistent since the beginning. To protect ourselves, people should stand at least six feet away from others whenever possible.

Despite the consistent messaging, it doesn’t appear to be getting through to most of the public. Research by Premise Data, drawing from various online databases, shows that only a third of 6,589 respondents— 31.25-percent—say they understand six feet is the preferred area for social distancing.

That’s easy to see on a trip to any store. Many retailers have marked their floors to demonstrate the proper distance shoppers should maintain between each other, which the shoppers ignore. But the cost of that ignorance can be high.

Since the first confirmed case was found in January, 395,011 Americans have been infected, leading to 12,754 deaths, according to the latest tally from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Social distancing has gone from being unknown to being a commonplace in daily conversation, but many people still don’t seem to know what exactly it means.

According to Johns Hopkins University, social distancing means deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19. Understanding something as basic as that is key to reducing the toll the pandemic can have on Kentucky.

During briefings, Gov. Andy Beshear has presented several models showing the number of people who could die depending on how well we conform to social distancing. The number of deaths range from 13,000 with poor public compliance to 2,000 with strict compliance of stay-at-home orders. Beshear has repeatedly said following social distancing guidelines and staying healthy at home can save thousands.

“It’s totally in our control,” the governor said Friday. “Your choices could save 11,000 people.”

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