CDC social distancing requirements not beneficial, ‘especially when’ wearing masks, MIT Researcher says

People who maintain 60-feet of distance from others indoors are no more protected from infection than if they socially distance by just six feet, a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study.

“We argue there really isn’t much of a benefit to the 6-foot rule, especially when people are wearing masks,” Martin Z. Bazant, one of the researchers at MIT said. “It really has no physical basis because the air a person is breathing while wearing a mask tends to rise and comes down elsewhere in the room so you’re more exposed to the average background than you are to a person at a distance.”

“The important variable the CDC and the WHO have overlooked is the amount of time spent indoors,”  Bazant continued. “The longer someone is inside with an infected person, the greater the chance of transmission.”

A method of calculating exposure risk to Covid-19 in indoor settings accounting for different variables that could affect transmission, including the amount of time spent inside, air filtration and circulation, immunization, variant strains, mask use, and even respiratory activity such as breathing, eating, speaking or singing was developed by Bazant and co-researcher and fellow MIT professor John W.M. Bush.

“What our analysis continues to show is that many spaces that have been shut down in fact don’t need to be,” he continued. “Oftentimes the space is large enough, the ventilation is good enough, the amount of time people spend together is such that those spaces can be safely operated even at full capacity and the scientific support for reduced capacity in those spaces is really not very good.”

He argued that the mandates implemented across the nation during the pandemic that have shuttered businesses and schools have been unnecessary.

“This emphasis on distancing has been really misplaced from the very beginning,” he said. “The CDC or WHO have never really provided justification for it, they’ve just said this is what you must do and the only justification I’m aware of, is based on studies of coughs and sneezes, where they look at the largest particles that might sediment onto the floor and even then it’s very approximate, you can certainly have a longer or shorter range, large droplets.”

Bazant added, “The distancing isn’t helping you that much and it’s also giving you a false sense of security because you’re as safe at 6 feet as you are at 60 feet if you’re indoors. Everyone in that space is at roughly the same risk, actually.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has recommended at least 6-foot social distancing in all public areas. “You could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” Fauci said in April of 2020 while appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Last month Fauci again appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and changed his assessment on social distancing guidelines saying that 3-foot distances would be safe enough for schools to reopen. Host Jake Tapper asked Fauci “Does this study suggest to you that three feet is good enough?” Fauci answered by saying “It does, indeed.”