Social Distancing Was First Introduced By New Mexico Teenager In 2006

Social Distancing graphic from CDC.

Social distancing was first introduced in May 2006 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Indianapolis by Laura Glass, a then-15-year-old Albuquerque High School sophomore, according to a report by the Albuquerque Journal earlier this month.

Glass unveiled her plan to implement social distancing as a method to slow the spread of pandemics. She was one of 1,500 students to attend the fair.

“It spreads like crazy once it gets in the teens in the schools,” Glass told Albuquerque Journal science reporter John Fleck, who covered the event fourteen years ago.

Her project was based on computer simulations of human interaction, according to the report. She won third place in the medicine and health category at the Intel fair in 2006.

“The inspiration, the sparks came from my daughter,” said Robert J. Glass, a retired Sandia National Laboratories senior scientist, said of social distancing.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Laura Glass, now 29, declined to be interviewed for their story, but her father offered a comment on her motivation to find a way to help curb the spread of pandemics.

“Her project was a multiyear kind of effort, and it dovetailed with work I was doing – complex systems modeling. You could define a person and put them in a grid, move them around and find who they would come into contact with,” Mr. Glass told the Journal. “She said, ‘What about diseases?’”

Social distancing in the U.S. was first implemented in March of this year, when the COVID-19 epidemic escalated nationwide.

In April, a new modeling study from Harvard warned that ‘intermittent’ periods of social distancing may be required until the year 2022 in the United States, in order to combat any surge in the virus that could overwhelm the health care system.