The Social Etiquette of Social Distancing: How to Say ‘Back Off,’ Politely

Jessica Roy wrote . . . . . . . . .

You suited up in your homemade face covering and disposable gloves to buy groceries. But the person behind you in the checkout line is inching closer and closer. What do you say? What do you do?

In the age of self-quarantines and social distancing, it’s a whole new world of etiquette. Things that were once considered polite — handshakes, holding the door, helping a neighbor with their arms full — are now verboten.

The most gracious, courteous thing you can do for others right now is to stay at home. When you absolutely must go out, though, you may find some people apparently haven’t heard of this whole stand-at-least-six-feet-apart thing.

Part of the reason you might be having trouble asserting physical boundaries right now is that this is so new to all of us. In many cases, it goes against our deeply ingrained patterns of behavior. We’re used to standing right behind people in line at the grocery store, and cheerfully passing mere inches from each other on the sidewalk.

We have to overcome our own normal behaviors and also figure out how to modulate other people’s behaviors. That can be a challenge.

“I don’t think we like asking things of others or telling people they’re doing something wrong,” said Lizzie Post, the president of the Emily Post Institute and the author of several books on modern etiquette. “We like having expectations and standards to follow. They’re what glue us together as a society. And at the same time, we don’t like being told what to do.”

So how do you politely tell someone “hey, back off”? The exact words you use matter less than how you deliver them, Post said. Focus on being friendly, pleasant, and nonthreatening. Everyone is stressed out right now; the last thing you want is to do is escalate the situation.

“Rather than putting up a strong arm and saying, ‘Um, can you back up six feet, please?’ the other way you can say it to someone is, ‘I’m sorry. I’m trying to maintain the six-foot distance. Do you mind giving me a little more space, please?’” Post said.

You can also “borrow authority” if you don’t feel comfortable asserting yourself. Alison Green, who writes the workplace advice blog Ask A Manager, says that in this case, you can blithely defer to health officials. Something like, “Oh, I think we’re supposed to be staying six feet apart, if you wouldn’t mind just backing up a little bit,” or “You know, I think the CDC is saying we should stay six feet apart, so let’s keep some distance.”

Try to give others the benefit of the doubt. We’re not used to staying six feet away from all people at all times. We all have a lot on our minds right now, and it’s possible they just aren’t paying attention to where they’re standing.

“Don’t go into it with the assumption that they’re totally ignorant or making some sort of point,” Green said. “If you’re just warm and nice about it, it’s fine. If you sound chilly, it’s going to feel chilly to them.”

Out in public, you might feel like you’re locked in a permanent game of “Frogger” with your fellow sidewalk patrons. Remember that you do have the option to be the one to physically move yourself, even if you feel you have the right of way.

Americans “have this cultural ‘why should I be the one to move?’ thing in us, and it is not our friend right now,” said Jennifer Peepas, who writes the advice blog Captain Awkward. Resist that urge to stand your ground, she said, and remember that the kindest thing you can do for others and for yourself right now is to maintain that six-foot barrier.

If you’re in a situation where you’re coming up behind someone and they may not be aware of it — for instance, if you’re jogging — it’s definitely your responsibility to be the one to move, she said.

Paula Cannon, a virologist and professor at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, said the six-feet-apart message is only meant to apply to situations where you’re standing still. She prefers to keep more distance than that. Encounters on the sidewalk or in a store are a chance for you to do something pretty amazing: Model kind, courteous, safe behavior for others.

“If I’m out walking in my neighborhood and somebody is walking up the sidewalk, I walk in the road,” she said. “I put 10 to 20 feet between me and them. I wave, I smile. What I’m doing is modeling appropriate behavior, and I’m doing it out of a sense of care and consideration. I think it’s important to message to other people [that] your behavior — no matter how weird it is — you’re doing it because you care about them, not because you’re afraid of them.”

In normal, nonpandemic times, fleeing into the street when someone approaches you on the sidewalk might be considered rude. Even now, it feels strange. But it’s also the most thoughtful thing you can do for your fellow human beings.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Chinese-style Double-cooked Pork


1/2 lb of boneless pork
3 stalk scallion, divided
3 slices ginger, divided
2 bell peppers (1 red and 1 green)
2 hot chili peppers
3 cloves garlic
3 or 4 leaves head cabbage


2 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 tbsp hot chili bean paste
1 tbsp soy sauce


  1. Boil pork with a stalk of scallion and a slice of ginger for 15 to 20 minutes, using just enough water to cover the meat. Remove and let it cool. Cut Pork into thin slices and set aside.
  2. Slice bell peppers, hot chili peppers, and remaining scallion. Shred ginger root and crush the garlic. Cut leaves of head cabbage into large pieces.
  3. Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a wok and stir-fry the cooked pork for 1/2 minute. Then add the vegetables, stir-fry for about 1 minute. Remove and set aside.
  4. Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  5. Heat wok with the remaining oil (if not sufficient, add 1 tbsp of oil). Add sauce mixture and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Return the pork and vegetables to the pan. Stir-fry to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Remove to serving platter and serve hot. This dish should be spicy and chili hot.

Source: Scrutable Chinese Cooking

Japanese Mayor: Men Should Do Shopping Since Women are ‘Indecisive and Take Forever’

The mayor of Japan’s Osaka has come under fire for suggesting men should do grocery shopping during the coronavirus outbreak because women are indecisive and “take a long time”.

Japan is under a state of emergency over the pandemic, and residents in some areas have been asked to shop less frequently and only send one family member out to get supplies to limit contact.

Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui told reporters on Thursday (Apr 23) that men should be entrusted with grocery runs because women “take a long time as they browse around and hesitate about this and that”, Kyodo news agency reported.

“Men can snap up things they are told (to buy) and go, so I think it’s good that they go shopping, avoiding human contact,” the 56-year-old added.

When challenged by a reporter, he acknowledged his remarks might be viewed as out-of-touch, but said they were true in his family.

But online he was roundly condemned, with one Twitter user accusing him of being “disrespectful to women and men”.

Another dubbed his comment “full of prejudice against women”, adding “there are indecisive men and nimble and sharp women”.

“Does he think (shoppers) like to take time?” added a third. “They are thinking about menus and prices.”

But there was some support for the mayor.

“That’s right. Elderly women, in particular, are always chatting away, unconcerned about shopping,” wrote one user.

Despite its highly educated female population, Japan ranked 121 out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 gender gap index, primarily because of its poor showing in political representation.

Traditional gender roles are still deeply rooted in Japanese society and women are often still expected to take primary responsibility for childcare and domestic chores, even while holding down professional jobs.

Source : CNA

Read also at BBC:

Coronavirus: Malaysian men in shopping muddle amid lockdown . . . . .

Coronavirus Drifts Through the Air in Microscopic Droplets – Here’s the Science of Infectious Aerosols

Shelly Miller wrote . . . . . . . . .

During the 1970s when I was growing up in Southern California, the air was so polluted that I was regularly sent home from high school to “shelter in place.” There might not seem to be much in common between staying home due to air pollution and staying home to fight the coronavirus pandemic, but fundamentally, both have a lot to do with aerosols.

Aerosols are the tiny floating pieces of pollution that make up Los Angeles’ famous smog, the dust particles you see floating in a ray of sunshine and also the small droplets of liquid that escape your mouth when you talk, cough or breathe. These small pieces of floating liquids can contain pieces of the coronavirus and can be major contributor to its spread.

If you walk outside right now, chances are you will see people wearing masks and practicing social distancing. These actions are in large part meant to prevent people from spreading or inhaling aerosols.

I am a professor of mechanical engineering and study aerosols and air pollution. The more people understand how aerosols work, the better people can avoid getting or spreading the coronavirus.

Airborne and everywhere

An aerosol is a clump of small liquid or solid particles floating in the air. They are everywhere in the environment and can be made of anything small enough to float, like smoke, water or coronavirus-carrying saliva.

When a person coughs, talks or breathes, they throw anywhere between 900 to 300,000 liquid particles from their mouth. These particles range in size from microscopic – a thousandth the width of a hair – up to the size of a grain of fine beach sand. A cough can send them traveling at speeds up to 60 mph.

Size of the particle and air currents affect how long they will stay in the air. In a still room, tiny particles like smoke can stay airborne for up to eight hours. Larger particles fall out of the air more quickly and land on surfaces after a few minutes.

By simply being near other people, you are coming into constant contact with aerosols from their mouth. During a pandemic this a little more concerning than normal. But the important question is not do exhaled aerosols exist, rather, how infectious are they?

Aerosols as virus delivery systems

The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is tiny, about 0.1 microns – roughly 4 millionths of an inch – in diameter. Aerosols produced by people when they breathe, talk and cough are generally between about 0.7 microns to around 10 microns – completely invisible to the naked eye and easily able to float in air. These particles are mostly biological fluids from people’s mouths and lungs and can contain bits of virus genetic material.

Researchers don’t yet know how many individual pieces of SARS-CoV-2 an aerosol produced by an infected person’s cough might hold. But in one preprint study, meaning it is currently under peer review, researchers used a model to estimate that a person standing and speaking in a room could release up to 114 infectious doses per hour. The researchers predict that these aerosolized bits of saliva would easily infect other people if this happened in public indoor spaces like a bank, restaurant or pharmacy.

Another thing to consider is how easy these particles are to inhale. In a recent computer model study, researchers found that people would most likely inhale aerosols from another person that is talking and coughing while sitting less than 6 feet away.

While this seems bad, the actual process from exposure to infection is a complicated numbers game. Often, viral particles found in aerosols are damaged. A study looking at the flu virus found that only 0.1% of viruses exhaled by a person are actually infectious. The coronavirus also starts to die off once it has left the body, remaining viable in the air for up to three hours. And of course, not every aerosol coming from an infected person will contain the coronavirus. There is a lot of chance involved.

Public health officials still don’t know whether direct contact, indirect contact through surfaces, or aerosols are the main pathway of transmission for the coronavirus. But everything experts like myself know about aerosols suggests that they could be a major pathway of transmission.

Evidence of aerosol transmission

It is almost impossible to study viral transmission in real time, so researchers have turned to environmental sampling and contact tracing to try to study the spread of the coronavirus in aerosols. This research is happening extremely fast and most of it is still under peer review, but these studies offer extremely interesting, if preliminary, information.

To test the environment, researchers simply sample the air. In Nebraska, scientists found airborne SARS-CoV-2 in a hospital. In China, scientists also found the virus in the air of a number of hospitals as well as a department store.

But environmental sampling alone cannot prove aerosol transmission. That requires contact tracing.

One restaurant in Guangzhou, China, was the site of a small outbreak on Jan. 23 and offers direct evidence of aerosol transmission. Researchers believe that there was one infected but asymptomatic person sitting at a table in the restaurant. Because of the air currents circulating in the room due to air conditioning, people sitting at two other tables became infected, likely because of aerosols.

Overall, the evidence suggests that it is much more risky to be inside than outside. The reason is the lack of airflow. It takes between 15 minutes and three hours for an aerosol to be sucked outside by a ventilation system or float out an open window.

Another preprint study of outbreaks in Japan suggests that the chances of direct transmission are almost 20 times higher indoors compared to outdoors. In Singapore, researchers traced the first three outbreaks directly to a few shops, a banquet dinner and a church.

Once outside, these potentially infectious aerosols disappear in the expanse of the atmosphere and are much less of a worry. It is of course possible to catch the virus outside if you are in close contact with a sick person, but this seems very rare. Researchers in China found that only one of 314 outbreaks they examined could be traced back to outdoor contact.

There has been recent concern over aerosol transmission during running and biking. While the science is still developing on this, it is probably wise to give other bikers or runners a little more room than normal.

How to reduce aerosol transmission

With all of this knowledge of how aerosols are produced, how they move and the role they play in this pandemic, an obvious question arises: what about masks?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a face mask in any public setting where social distancing is hard to do. This is because homemade masks probably do a reasonable job of blocking aerosols from leaving your mouth. The evidence generally supports their use and more research is coming to show that masks can be very effective at reducing SARS-CoV-2 in air. Masks aren’t perfect and more studies are currently underway to learn how effective they really are, but taking this small precaution could help slow the pandemic.

Other than wearing a mask, follow common sense and the guidance of public health officials. Avoid crowded indoor spaces as much as possible. Practice social distancing both inside and outdoors. Wash your hands frequently. All of these things work to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and can help keep you from getting it. There is a significant amount of evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted by the inhalation of airborne particles, but by carefully following the advice of experts, individuals can minimize the risk they pose.

Source : The Conversation

Healthy Climate News: Fava Beans Could Replace Soy

Tofu, soy milk and veggie mince. More and more Danes are opting to supplement or completely replace their consumption of animal-based proteins with plant-based proteins. Climate considerations are part of their reasoning.

We often use soy-based protein when experimenting with vegetarian cooking. But, new research from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science demonstrates that fava beans hold great promise as a non-soy source of plant protein. Moreover, favas are a better alternative for the environment:

“Many consumers are crying out for alternatives to soy, a crop that places great strain on the environment. This prompted us to find a method of processing fava beans in such a way that allows us to produce a concentrated protein powder. One of the advantages of fava beans is that they can be grown here, locally in Denmark. This is excellent news for the climate,” explains Iben Lykke Petersen, an assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science, and one of the researchers behind the new study published in the journal Foods.

Far more climate friendly

Fava beans are better suited for climate considerations because they can be cultivated locally, unlike soybeans, which are primarily grown in the United States and South America — and then exported to Denmark.

Moreover, numerous farms in Brazil and Paraguay have cleared large tracts of forest to create space for soybean fields. This has had severely negative consequences for wildlife, biodiversity and CO2 emissions.

“Another important factor is that, unlike fava beans, lots of soy is genetically modified to be able to tolerate Roundup, an herbicide. Within this context, many consumers are critical of soy’s environmental consequences,” explains Iben Lykke Petersen.

New method makes fava powder that bursts with protein

To find an alternative to environmentally taxing soybean, the study’s researchers tested various crops, looking for those with the greatest potential as a protein powder, while also being able to be grown locally. Here, fava beans outperformed lentils, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa.

Using an incredibly unique method known as ‘wet fractionation’, the researchers succeeded in concentrating fava bean protein and removing substances that would otherwise inhibit the digestion of the protein. This allows nutritious fava bean proteins to be more readily absorbed when consumed.

“Wet fractionation is accomplished by milling beans into a flour, and then adding water and blending the mixture into a soup. Thereafter, it becomes easier for us to sort out the less beneficial substances and produce an optimized product,” explains Iben Lykke Petersen. She adds:

“Our results demonstrate that this method significantly increases protein content. Furthermore, through our tests, we can see that this protein is nearly as readily digested as when we break down protein from animal products, such meat and eggs.”

Competitive color, taste and texture.

The content and nutritional quality of a protein is one thing. Taste is something else! Here too, fava beans can compete with soy and other plant-based protein alternatives. Iben Lykke Petersen explains that when fava beans are processed correctly, their proteins retain their naturally bright colour, along with a neutral taste and good texture.

“Manufacturers prefer a product that is tasteless, has a neutral color and a firm texture. Fava beans check each these boxes, unlike peas, which often have a very bitter aftertaste,” she concludes.

Fava beans are grown primarily in the Middle East, China and Ethiopia, but are already available in Danish supermarkets and health food stores.

Source: University of Copenhagen

Today’s Comic