CDC Changes Social Distancing Guidelines In Schools To Three Feet

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventing updated its social distancing guidance for schools on Friday (March 19). Under the revised guidelines, students can now be within three feet of each other, as long as they are wearing masks and following other preventative measures.

"Consistent with recommendations from WHO and the American Academy of Pediatrics, using a distance of at least 3 feet between students in classrooms could provide a feasible definition of physical distancing so long as other prevention measures are maximized. These include mask requirements for both students and staff, maintaining healthy facilities such as improved ventilation, frequent hand hygiene, and encouraging students and staff to stay home when they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has known or suspected COVID-19," the CDC said.

The CDC said that teachers and staff members should continue to keep six feet of physical distancing between themselves and students. The agency also noted that the six-foot rule should still apply in common areas and when students are likely to remove their masks, such as during lunch or gym class.

The agency cited several recently published studies that found it was safe to open schools as long as students maintain at least three feet of physical distance.

"Indeed, because six feet has been such a challenge there, science has leaned in, and there are now emerging studies on the question between three feet and six feet," CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told lawmakers during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

The updated guidance comes as schools have been struggling to fully reopen while maintaining social distancing policies that required six feet of separation between students. The new guidance should make it easier for schools, especially those with limited space and large class sizes, to safely operate.

"Getting kids back into in-person learning is very difficult logistically from a space standpoint if you have to keep them 6 feet apart, so if the guidance is changed to 3 feet, it will make things much more feasible to get kids back into in-person classroom learning," Dr. Ebbing Lautenbach, chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, told CNN.

Photo: Getty Images

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