Is six feet too close?
Social distancing guidelines recommend that people stay six feet apart in public, based on how far most large droplets from a cough or a sneeze travel. But that may not be enough, especially if your health is vulnerable or you’re in an enclosed space.
Smaller droplets called aerosols that could spread the virus might be carried farther by air currents. They’re produced not only when you sneeze or cough, but also when you simply breathe or talk.
(We created a 3-D simulation to show just what happens in the 20 minutes after an infected person coughs indoors. We also used augmented reality — accessible with the NYTimes iOS app on a newer iPhone or iPad — to show how the six-foot guideline could apply in real life.)
All the more reason to wear a mask
Barriers of cloth or other materials can stop large particles from landing on your nose and mouth, while disrupting the trajectory of your own coughs and sneezes.
Worried about surfaces?
Most people catch the virus by inhaling droplets that an infected person has just breathed out, not by touching a surface where it may be lurking. So the usefulness of widespread public disinfecting remains up for debate.