The aerosol scientist, the journalist and the illustrator

How to Hug During a Pandemic

The New York Times publish an illustrated article with a guide on the safest ways to hug, as advised by scientists.

Tara Parker-Pope, the founding editor of “Well”, The New York Times’ health site, wanted to share with everyone the safest way to hug during the pandemic. Aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech and world leading experts on airborne disease transmission, Linsey Marr, calculated the risk of exposure during hugs using mathematical models from a Hong Kong study that shows how respiratory viruses travel during close contact. Illustrator Eleni Kalorkoti was commissioned to interpret the advice from Dr Marr and other experts in a series of illustrations, to make them easily comprehensible by everyone.


How did the collaboration come about?

“Physical affection reduces stress by calming our sympathetic nervous system, which during times of worry releases damaging stress hormones into our bodies,” writes Tara Parker-Pope.

Tara was inspired by various viral videos on social media of people emotionally embracing each other after time apart, or even inventing “hug gloves” to be able to hug their loved ones. In her quest to write an article that would spread joy amongst people, she contacted aerosol scientist Dr Linsey Mar for advice. The New York Times then commissioned Eleni Kalorkoti to illustrate the article.


What were the most important factors that contributed to the success of this project?

Response to COVID-19
Combination of skill sets
Combination of participants
Social impact


Project funding

The New York Times


Will the project continue beyond COVID-19 lockdown?

Although this specific collaboration will not continue beyond lockdown, the advice resulting from this research will be helpful for the foreseeable future, as people all around the world try to navigate through the post-lockdown times.