When George Washington was a boy, he copied into his notebook over 100 “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Most of these rules he copied or adapted from well-known publications. But they became his own rules of conduct for as long as he lived. A surprising number of Washington’s “Rules of Civility” dealt with social distancing. Washington was aloof by nature, and even his fellow members of the Continental Congress kept their distance. None would deign at a public house to slap him on the back and offer to buy him a drink. Remember that he lived in an age of pandemics — disease took the lives of indigenous peoples by the millions and American colonists by the hundreds of thousands. Average life expectancy in his father’s Virginia was only 25 years and had not improved much by the end of the American Revolution, by which time the average age of death was 35. Washington himself had a strong constitution, though at the time he recorded his “Rules of Civility,” he had nearly died from a case of smallpox that scarred his left cheek and made him a believer in inoculation to prevent the spread of such contagions.
See, for instance: :If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkercheif or Hand before your face and turn aside.”