View north from Sellwood Bridge toward downtown

Covid-19 diary: social distance

Published 2020-03-26

I worry that Portlanders, already prone to anxieties about personal space and body purity, are going to be psychically damaged by “social distancing.” Already I’m noticing people have stopped making eye contact, saying hello, etc. And this crazy thing where people cross the street or stop dead — way more than 6' distance! This is super annoying when outside btw.

From everything I’ve read, Covid-19 isn’t like measles, a tough airborne disease. We aren’t projecting a 6' bubble of radioactivity. It is not a particularly mobile or hardy virus.

My theory is the 6-foot social distance rule is really a hack. It’s a convenient way to achieve two things:

  1. Keep people from touching each other
  2. Keep people from spitting (sneezing, coughing) in each others’ faces

This is a good hack! It’s especially important in enclosed spaces where people are likely to cough on each other. And in the same way a procedure mask reminds you not to touch your face, the 6' buffer reminds you not to shake someone’s hand (a hard habit for a midwesterner to break)

The last few nights have been the first in several weeks that I have not gotten an easy full night's sleep. I missed my morning social distance commute on Tuesday because I had a call early in the morning. And my sleep biology is such that when I have something to do in the morning, I sleep very lightly the night before. Yesterday afternoon the deficit from Monday night caught up and I took a late afternoon nap. (Not coincidentally also the first nap I’ve had since the beginning of the mandatory Social Distancing.) I think I was undertired when I went to bed last night.

A couple of links to notable things I’ve read in the past few days: