CDC says 3 feet of social distancing in schools is safe with mask wearing

March 19, 2021 0 By boss


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At a Kentucky school, masked students walk single file down the main hallway while socially distanced. 


Jon Cherry/Getty Images

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated its COVID-19 guidance for schools, saying that it now recommends most students maintain a distance of 3 feet, down from 6 feet, with universal masking.

The updated guidance comes after multiple studies on the spread of COVID-19 in schools have shown evidence that “physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students can safely be adopted in classroom settings where mask use is universal and other prevention measures are taken,” said the CDC. 

See also: 5 essential items to help your kids go back to school

In elementary schools, the CDC recommends students stay 3 feet apart, even in areas where community transmission is high. For middle and high schools, the CDC recommends 3 feet in areas where community transmission is low, moderate or substantial but says students should stick to 6 feet of distance in communities where transmission is high and where it isn’t possible for schools to use cohorting — when students are together with the same small group of peers and teachers throughout the day.

“CDC is committed to leading with science and updating our guidance as new evidence emerges,” the agency’s director, Rochelle Walensky, said in a release. “These updated recommendations provide the evidence-based roadmap to help schools reopen safely, and remain open, for in-person instruction.” 

The CDC still recommends at least 6 feet of distance between adults in school buildings and in common areas like lobbies, as well as during activities when increased exhalation occurs, like singing and sports. 

Many schools across the US shifted to virtual or hybrid learning models when the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country last year. The new CDC guidance could make it easier for schools to reopen for in-person learning full time. On Wednesday, the Biden administration also said it was investing $10 billion in COVID-19 testing for schools to speed up the return to in-person learning. 

Even as reopening schools and increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines offer hope that life could soon return to normal, more than 539,000 people have died in the US from the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins. Here’s where to get a COVID-19 shot, and here’s how to track how many vaccines are available in your state.


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