In the case of coronavirus, the largest respiratory droplets are believed to contain the highest amount of virus, making them the most dangerous. And these tend to travel a maximum of 6 feet before falling to the ground or onto nearby surfaces.
At the same time, smaller respiratory droplets are also emitted which can drift as far as 29 feet. While these smaller 'aerosol' droplets are believed to be less virulent, they may still have to potential to infect others who come in contact with them. This is especially true for anyone who is elderly or has an underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart or lung disease.
One reason that the spread of coronavirus has been so difficult to control is that it is often difficult to know who among us is infected!
At this time, it is safest to assume that anyone with a bad cough, fever, sore throat, or extreme fatigue may be infected. But many people who are infected and capable of transmitting the virus A) may be in the early stages of the coronavirus disease where they have NOT YET developed symptoms or have only MINOR symptoms or B) may be among the 'lucky' ones who NEVER develop any symptoms at all!
Even many of the carriers themselves may not know they are infected.
Regardless of the presence or severity of symptoms, anyone who is infected has the capability of passing the virus to others. That is why it is critical that all of us practice 'social distancing' at this time.
Social Distancing means that we should 1) avoid crowded places or gathering in groups, 2) remain as far away as practical from others1 and 3) avoid anyone who appears to be ill.2 Everyone you meet may have the potential to transmit the virus.
As a way preventing coronavirus disease, the current social distancing rule of thumb is:
Whenever possible, stay at least 6 feet away from everyone you meet on walks, at the store, etc. But the farther away you stay the better.
1. Since you interact with immediate family members on a daily basis, distancing from them is nearly impossible and impractical. So, among immediate family members, you'll need to practice social distancing and other safety measures only if one of them appears to be ill.
2. Family members or friends who are ill may need you to assist with hands-on care and assistance. In these cases, social distancing is not possible so special precautions for COVID-19 caregivers should be taken. You'll fine tips for COVID-19 caregivers at The Red Cross and NPR.