From noodle hats to mannequins: Here are six unusual ways people are social distancing

As countries slowly begin to reopen from closures meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, scientists and health officials say social distancing is crucial to help prevent outbreaks from resurging. 

Columbia University researchers released a study this week showing the preventative measure "effectively reduced rates of COVID-19 transmission" in the United States and even could have prevented 36,000 coronavirus deaths if it had been implemented just a week earlier. 

Meanwhile, Harvard University computer models tracking the virus have led experts to predict that social distancing will have to be adopted as a common practice intermittently until a vaccine is available, possibly into 2022.

Now, schools, restaurants and parks are working to adapt to the new reality, and some are approaching the situation with a sense of humor. Across the U.S. and the world, places are coming up with inventive approaches to ensure people remain safely distanced, from pool noodle hats to mannequin dining partners. 

Here are several ways places are adapting to social distancing: 

A little bit of (h)attitude:

To help keep customers and students socially distanced, some places are turning to the use of hats with wide brims or features that jut out to create the recommended radius for distancing. 

Photos at one school in China show students wearing hats that replicate traditional Song Dynasty headwear, with long horizontal pieces. In Germany, a cafe has gone viral for its photos of diners in straw hats with colorful pool noodles pointing in three different directions to encourage social distancing from all sides. 

And on Friday, Burger King revealed giant new crowns to social distance, telling Business Insider: "We wanted to re-enforce the rules of high safety and hygiene standards that the BK restaurants are following. The do-it-yourself social distance crown was a fun and playful way to remind our guests to practice social distancing while they are enjoying food in the restaurants."

Party of four, but only two humans:

Restaurants in the U.S. and across the globe are turning to mannequins, stuffed animals and life-sized cutouts to say "this seat is taken" and spread out their guests in dining areas. 

Japan's Izu Shaboten Zoo is drawing global attention for its use of stuffed capybaras at its cafe to keep guests separated, while Virginia's Inn at Little Washington has gained attention for setting up scenes with mannequins in its dining area to keep diners apart. 

A table for one:

The Fish Tales restaurant in Ocean City, Md., has created "bumper tables" - circular tables surrounded by inner tubes to keep customers separated. The idea was inspired by bumper boats, and video and photos on social media show people rolling their personal tables around and playfully bumping into one another. 

And in Sweden, a socially distanced one-person restaurant has been created that lets a single person eat in a field with their meal delivered in a basket by a pully system.


Your own personal bubble:

Domino Park in Brooklyn, N.Y., has gained national attention for painting socially distanced circles onto the grass so visitors can sunbathe, picnic or just get fresh air while avoiding being too close with others. 

Other parks have followed suit, including Dolores Park in San Francisco. 

Graduation by ski lift: 

Seniors across the country have had their graduation ceremonies canceled altogether, but some schools have found inventive ways to send off their students. 

One school in New Hampshire has come up with the idea of using a local ski resort's chairlift, putting graduates on every other seat to get their diploma at the top of a mountain.

Numerous other schools have also adopted drive-thru ceremonies, where families parade through school parking lots with their graduate and safely obtain their diploma from the car, as teachers cheer from the streets. 


A private greenhouse, but plant yourself in a chair: 

In Amsterdam, a restaurant has gained attention for allowing its diners to eat in their own individual greenhouses that separate them from other diners and waiters when they come to deliver their food. 

People who are isolating together can go out, and eat together without risking contact with other diners.