Opinion: Sidewalk Etiquette During COVID-19


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Over the last two months, everyone has repeatedly heard the term “Social Distancing.” In a nutshell, to socially distance means to stay at least six feet away from others in public, and to wear a face mask if possible. While some Philadelphians are following these necessary guidelines, others are not. 

Recently, there have been many instances where I have been walking all the way to one side of the sidewalk, while the other person walks in the middle, leaving around three feet of space in between–half of the safe distance! Prior to COVID-19, this would be absolutely normal, and I would not care. However, because there is an ongoing global pandemic right now, it is of the utmost importance that people be aware of these rules. 

As for dog walkers, many walk in the middle, leaving virtually no space for the other person to walk. While there is no evidence stating that dogs can infect humans with the virus, it is still impolite to take up the entire sidewalk with a pet. 

Pairs of people are also a part of the problem. Whenever I walk with my mom and pairs approach us, we always make sure to form a single-file line. There have been numerous occasions when my mom and I do this, but the other pair does not. Instead, the pair will continue to walk side-by-side, leaving a small amount of space in between. 

An ideal walking experience during this pandemic would be for all individuals, including dog walkers, to stay as far from each other as possible on the sidewalk. On less busy roads, one person should try to cross to the other side if it is safe to do so. These situations ensure maximum distance between people to lower the chance of infection. 

Another major issue I have observed is the amount of maskless people walking around in public. In her experience outside, Carly Siegel ‘21 reports, “I have seen around fifty percent of people wearing masks, and fifty percent not wearing masks.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the novel Coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person who talks, sneezes, or coughs. Additionally, it takes only 1,000 virus particles to infect a person, but a normal cough contains around 200,000 of them. By wearing a mask, the chances of infecting someone else with the virus are substantially lower. 

Warmer weather also seems to make people forgetful of social distancing guidelines. Hannah Feinberg ‘20 says, “On really nice days in some areas of the city, it gets so crowded and almost no one is wearing a mask.” Nyeema Caldwell ‘20 agrees: “At the parks I ride by, and outside of random houses I have passed, few to no people wear masks.” This is frightening considering that the pandemic is nowhere near over. The last thing Philadelphia needs right now is non-family members crowded together without masks. 

Some people in the city understand the severity of this crisis, and some don’t. Carly says: “for the most part there seems to be a mutual understanding to stay as far away as possible on the sidewalk, but that’s definitely not always the case especially in more crowded areas.” Nyeema says she doesn’t like wearing a mask, but “understands the importance of wearing one.” In a recent Friends Select poll, around 92% of community members said that they wear masks outside. 

It is imperative that everyone follow the social distancing guidelines. This virus is real, and can kill. Although a person may have no underlying health conditions and is completely healthy, they might infect a vulnerable person. The most important thing to remember is to be aware at all times, and to be vigilant of those who are not following the guidelines. To stop the spread of this virus, this needs to be a group effort in which everyone follows the rules.