Letter to the Editor

Maybe 6 feet isn't enough

To the editor: Two weeks ago, the News-Miner graciously printed another one of my silly missives in which I listed a few necessary admonitions concerning the dreaded COVID-19 disease. Above all, I stressed the importance of proper social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine in order to halt the advance of this disease. You see, this pathogen has an inherent weakness. It needs a constant supply of fresh, uninfected hosts to continue its deadly rampage through our society. I envisioned its growth as a line of dominoes, one falling after another. Then, on the TV, they depicted it as an upright sequence of wooden matches, with the flame of infection leaping from one match to the next.

We are all familiar with how quickly our Alaska wildfires rage through a dry spruce forest, devouring everything in its path. So, too, this malignant malady charges from one end of a crowd of unprotected people to the other. However, if we simply remove one or two of the unburned matches, the virus cannot bridge the gap, the matches already aflame eventually smolder and extinguish themselves, and the remaining matches remain unharmed and uninfected. Its lethal progression stops in its tracks.

Unfortunately, I am not certain that a social distance of only 6 feet is sufficient. Pathologists inform us that the virus spreads readily in saliva droplets when an infected person sneezes. Apparently, the droplets fall harmlessly to the ground within 3 feet, or even 6 feet from an especially forceful sneeze. However, I recall a time years ago when Rattles and I were traveling upstream on the upper Chena River in our flat-bottom riverboat. When we passed a couple of campers on an adjacent gravel bar, I could easily smell the woman’s perfume, even though we were on step, under full throttle, and at least 100 feet away. Thus, it seems that we must consider the direction and intensity of any prevailing breeze when calculating our safe social distance.

 

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