The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidance on social distancing in schools.
The agency announced late Friday morning, March 19 that students can sit 3 feet apart instead of 6 feet as long as they are wearing masks.
The move will allow for more desks in classrooms and a more stable schedule for students.
The new guidance, for K-12 students, includes all communities, regardless of whether the transmission rate is substantial, moderate, or low, according to the CDC.
The announcement comes following a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, where researchers evaluated 242 school districts in Massachusetts last fall that imposed mandates of either six-feet or three-feet of distancing.
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That study found that with universal mask-wearing, there was no discernible difference in the COVID-19 infection rates in students and staff.
The new guidance also removes the recommendations for plastic shields or barriers between desks, while permitting the three feet of social distance provided the virus isn’t raging throughout the community.
According to the CDC, students should still continue to be spaced six feet apart in situations where there are a lot of people talking, cheering, or singing, all of which can spread droplets containing the coronavirus.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that the new guidance is “evidence-based” to help reopen schools safely, and to help them stay open.
“CDC is committed to leading with science and updating our guidance as new evidence emerges,” she said. “Safe in-person instruction gives our kids access to critical social and mental health services that prepare them for the future, in addition to the education they need to succeed.”
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