Discussing the debate over school re-openings, the New York Times reported Tuesday on the origin of the 6-foot social distancing guideline that has been a significant part of most all government COVID-19 policy through the last year.
The paper found that no one is quite sure where the arbitrary number originated, but that science wasn't really part of it.
The report quotes several infectious disease specialists who scoff at the idea of any set distance being somehow a "safe" number.
"There's no magic threshold for any distance," said Dr. Benjamin Linas, a specialist in infectious diseases at Boston University. "There's risk at six feet, there's risk at three feet, there's risk at nine feet. There's risk always." He added, "The question is just how much of a risk? And what do you give up in exchange?"
Schools that have opened for in-person learning around the country have found the guidelines change from six feet to three feet, but there seems to be a great deal of confusion as to who is making those decisions and what standard they are using to do so.
"It never struck me that six feet was particularly sensical in the context of mitigation," said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. "I wish the C.D.C. would just come out and say this is not a major issue."
The CDC guidelines still state that "people should remain at least six feet away from others who are not in their households," but Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that the agency was reviewing the matter.