CDC Changes School Guidance, Allowing Desks To Be Closer

by Jeremy

NEW YORK (AP) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its social distancing guidelines for schools Friday, saying students can now sit 3 feet apart in classrooms.


The revised COVID-19 recommendations represent a turn away from the 6-foot standard that has forced some schools to remove desks, stagger scheduling and take other steps to keep children away from one another.

Three feet “gives school districts greater flexibility to have more students in for a prolonged period,” said Kevin Quinn, director of maintenance and facilities at Mundelein High School in suburban Chicago.

In recent months, schools in some states have disregarded the CDC guidelines, using 3 feet as their standard. Studies of what happened in some of them helped sway the agency, said Greta Massetti, who leads the CDC’s community interventions task force.

While there is evidence of improved mental health and other benefits from in-person schooling, “we don’t have the evidence that 6 feet are required to maintain low spread,” she said.

Also, younger children are less likely to get seriously ill from the coronavirus and don’t seem to spread it as much as adults do, and “that allows us that confidence that 3 feet of physical distance are safe,” Massetti said.

— Removes recommendations for plastic shields or other barriers between desks. “We don’t have a lot of evidence of their effectiveness” in preventing transmission, Massetti said.

— Advises at least 3 feet of space between desks in elementary schools, even in towns and cities where community spread is high, so long as students and teachers wear masks and take other precautions.

Says spacing can also be 3 feet in middle and high schools, so long as the community does not have a high spread level. If there is, spacing should be at least 6 feet.

The CDC said 6 feet of distance should still be maintained in common areas, such as school lobbies, and when masks can’t be worn, such as when eating. Also, students should continue to be spaced 6 feet apart in situations where many people are talking, cheering, or singing, all of which can spread droplets containing the coronavirus. That includes chorus practice, assemblies, and sports events.

The CDC said teachers and other adults should stay 6 feet from one another and students.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the revised recommendations are an “evidence-based roadmap to help schools reopen safely and remain open for in-person instruction. Safe in-person instruction gives our kids access to critical social and mental health services that prepare them for the future and the education they need to succeed,” she said in a statement.

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