News & Politics

Good News: People Actually Seem to Be Social Distancing

Our poll shows the number of people you've interacted with has dropped by a lot.

Photograph by Kumiko Hirama/iStock.
Coronavirus 2020

About Coronavirus 2020

Washingtonian is keeping you up to date on the coronavirus around DC.

We were curious about social distancing. It seems everyone is doing it. But how much is that? We polled more than a thousand people via Twitter and found an 86 percent drop in contact, as defined by the number of times per day you come within 6 feet of another person.

While this is a self-reported poll—and while most people don’t go around with tape measures to calculate the distance between themselves and their fellow humans—it does indeed still provide some good news.

We asked “How many people did you interact with in person (within 6 ft) on a normal day before the coronavirus?” The average answer pre-corona? Thirty people. After the virus? Four people. (Note: The poll was conducted March 27, before Maryland, Virginia, and the District issued stay-at-home orders.) The number of respondents was 1,086.

In fact, there’s reason to believe the drop-off could be even bigger. People’s estimates of their pre-corona social contact—30 people per day—may well be stingy: It’s a number a lot of folks could hit with a single trip on Metro or a couple of rides in their office buildings’ elevators. If so, it’s likely a lot of people have slashed their social contact by more than 86 percent.

One hopes the numbers translate into fewer Covid-19 cases in the DC area and that better late than never saves lives.

CEO & President

Since 2006 Catherine Merrill has been the CEO and Owner of Washingtonian Media, a media company that includes the flagship 55-year-old, Washingtonian — the national capital region’s leading magazine with more than 400,000 readers and winner of five National Magazine Awards. She oversees the award-winning website, which garners over 3 million page views per month and provides the platform for Washingtonian\’s 650,000+ social media followers. Ms. Merrill also created Washingtonian Weddings, Washingtonian Welcome Guide; as well as launched Washingtonian Events which produces national award-winning events, and Washingtonian Custom Media, a content marketing agency. She is proud to be a certified women-owned small business.

From 2002 to 2007, Ms. Merrill served as Director of Operations for Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), where she helped manage and collect 60 percent of the nation’s tolls—$2.7 billion a year—including the majority of the E-ZPass network. Prior to joining ACS, from 1995 to 2002, she was a partner in the worldwide management consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

Ms. Merrill is very active in the community and serves on the board of trustees of multiple organizations including the University of Maryland College Park (where she also chairs the Board of Visitors for the School of Journalism), Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences, the City and Regional Magazine Association, Ford’s Theater, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and The Merrill Family Foundation. She is on the Board of Advisors and is a founding member of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation and sits on the National Advisory Council for the Trust for the National Mall. She is a member and former chapter chair of YPO (Young President’s Organization) as well as an active member in the Economics Club of Washington and the Federal City Council. She has appeared on CNN, the Today Show, CNN Headline News, FOX, MSNBC, as well as other local Washington stations.

She holds a B.A. from Cornell University and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics.

Ms. Merrill resides in Washington, D.C. with her two sons. She enjoys sailing, skiing, and travel.