Jose Jimenez, a professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado Boulder specializing in aerosol science, suggests that people keep significantly more than 6 feet of distance between themselves and others when indoors or outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order, issued earlier this week, recommends that residents take “extreme steps” to avoid contact with anybody outside of their households. It states that you are allowed to exercise outdoors around your home, provided you stay at least 6 feet away from others.
But Jiminez said that residents seeking fresh air or exercise should take considerably steeper precautions on top of those currently recommended by the state and the federal government.
“The best analogy is when someone is smoking tobacco or marijuana,” Jimenez said. “Think about how many times you have walked by people and smelled tobacco or pot smoke that someone else had exhaled. Often, those people were farther away than six feet.”
“If that happens, we are inhaling the contents of someone’s lungs with limited dilution. Then we could inhale enough viruses to get sick, if the person exhaling the air was sick. Therefore, the (6-foot) rule, while useful, is not enough. We have to imagine that everyone we cross paths with is smoking, and we want to make sure that we never smell their smoke. So we want to keep larger distances, especially indoors or with light winds, or if they are upwind of us.”