‘Nobody Knows Where It Came From’: Former FDA Head Says ‘Arbitrary’ Six-Foot Social Distancing Highlights CDC’s ‘Lack Of Rigor’

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Melanie Wilcox Contributor
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Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s six-foot distancing recommendation during the pandemic “arbitrary” on Sunday.

“The six feet was arbitrary in and of itself,” Gottlieb said during an interview for CBS News’ “Face The Nation.” “The six feet is a perfect example of sort of the lack of rigor around how CDC made recommendations.” (RELATED: ‘I’m Pleading With You’: CDC Director Advises Spring Breakers To Follow COVID-19 Guidelines)


“Nobody knows where it came from. Most people assume that the six feet of distance — the recommendation for keeping six feet apart — comes out of some old studies related to flu where droplets don’t travel more than six feet,” the former commissioner explained.

“The initial recommendation that the CDC brought to the White House … was 10 feet. A political appointee in the White House said we can’t recommend 10 feet. Nobody can measure 10 feet. It’s inoperable. Society will shut down. So the compromise was around six feet,” Gottlieb said.

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in March the CDC was analyzing data to see if the agency would shorten social distancing guidelines from six feet to three feet. This occurred after a study showed schools could reduce social distancing requirements without putting students in danger.

A Gallup poll from July shows that less than one-fifth of Americans — about 18% — practice social distancing. The number of Americans who have been social distancing has dropped since December of 2020 when vaccines became available, according to the study. Social distancing peaked in April 2020 with about 75% of Americans adhering to the six-feet apart rule. The Gallup poll also shows that almost half of Americans — about 47% — have made “no attempt whatsoever” to isolate themselves.