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Physical Distancing Guide

Need-to-Know Info About Distancing and COVID-19

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What does physical distancing mean?

Physical distancing, also called “social distancing,” means keeping a safe distance between yourself and other people, particularly if they're not from your household.

Distancing has three parts: 

  • Staying home as much as possible
  • Staying at least 6 feet away (about 2 arm lengths) from other people while in public
  • Avoiding gatherings with many people present

Why physical distance? 

COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. Because people can spread COVID before they show symptoms, it's important to practice physical distancing. 

Why 6 feet? 

Six feet is the distance that water droplets can travel when someone talks.

You can’t see them, but these invisible droplets are expelled into the air when people talk as well as when they laugh, sneeze, or cough. Spread happens when those droplets land in the mouth or nose of those nearby. They can also be inhaled into the lungs. 

Physical Distancing FAQs

I’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19. Do I still need to physical distance? 

Although breakthrough infections are rare, keep in mind that fully vaccinated people can become infected with new variants, and potentially spread it to others--though the unvaccinated remain the most at risk. If you live in an area of high or substantial transmission, take precautions (like mask wearing and distancing) to slow the spread and mitigate the risk of infection.

I’ve been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Do I still need to avoid gatherings?

Outdoor and indoor activities pose minimal and low risk for vaccinated individuals, but in areas of high or substantial transmission, wear a mask and practice social distancing when appropriate to slow the spread.

Do I need to maintain physical distancing outside?

Yes. Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities, but it’s still a good idea to maintain your distance when outdoors. Saliva particles can travel up to 6 feet during normal conversation. 

Is it okay to travel now that I've been fully vaccinated for COVID-19?

Even if you're fully vaccinated, you should delay domestic and international travel. If you must travel, be sure to follow CDC's recommendations

Do I need to practice physical distancing if I'm wearing a mask?

Masks are not intended to replace physical distancing and handwashing recommendations which people should continue to use to protect themselves.

How can I make essential errands safer?

Stay at least 6 feet away from others while shopping and in lines. If possible, use drive-thru, curbside pick-up, or delivery services to limit face-to-face contact with others.

CDC Distancing Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that limiting close face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Get the lastest information from the CDC on distancing. 

See Latest CDC Distancing Guidelines 

Other DHEC Guides


Know when to wear a mask and which type to wear. 

Other DHEC Guides


Find out when and how to get tested for COVID-19. 

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What's the latest on physical distancing? DHEC has answers. Check out their distancing guide at for answers to common questions. 

COVID FAQ: I may have exposed others to COVID-19. What should I do now? COVID FAQ: Do I need to maintain physical distancing outside? COVID FAQ: How can I avoid unnecessary outings and make errands safer? COVID FYI: Close interactions with others increases your risk of COVID. COVID FYI: Six feet is the distance water droplets can travel when someone talks.