WORLD / AMERICAS
US backs distance of 3 feet between students, which may help schools open
Published: Mar 21, 2021 08:08 PM
The US government on Friday updated its COVID-19 mitigation guidance to narrow the acceptable distance between students who are wearing masks to at least 0.94 meters from at least 1.88 meters, potentially easing the path for schools that have struggled to reopen under previous recommendations.

LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner greets Krystal Gil, a special education substitute teacher, who was checking in LAUSD staff for COVID-19 vaccines at Panorama High School in Panorama City on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 after LAUSD and UTLA reached a tentative agreement to reopen schools almost a year after closing them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: VCG

LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner greets Krystal Gil, a special education substitute teacher, who was checking in LAUSD staff for COVID-19 vaccines at Panorama High School in Panorama City on March 10 after LAUSD and UTLA reached a tentative agreement to reopen schools almost a year after closing them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: VCG

The new recommendation from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a boost to the Biden administration's goal of reopening in-person learning for millions of public school students without sparking outbreaks of the virus.

Many schools continue to teach students remotely more than a year after the novel coronavirus prompted widespread closures across the US.

The new guidance applies to students from kindergarten through high school and in areas with low, moderate, and substantial community transmission of COVID-19. Middle and high school students in communities with high levels of COVID-19 should stay 1.88 meters apart unless their school day contact can be limited to a single small group of students and staff.

Students should continue to maintain 1.88 meters of distance when interacting with teachers and other school staff and when eating, the CDC said.

The CDC has been under pressure to relax its guidance to schools and Director Rochelle Walensky said this week that the agency was looking at data in part from a recent study in Massachusetts which suggested tighter spacing had not impacted COVID-19 transmission.

Many schools do not have the space in classrooms to maintain 1.88 meters between students, and outside of the US public health agency recommendations for social distancing start at about 0.94 meters and range to more than 1.88 meters.

The guidance urged schools to conduct widespread COVID-19 testing of students and said such regular use of screening tests offers added protection for schools that require fewer than 1.88 meters of separation.

School districts should expand screenings for students participating in sports or other extracurricular activities, and consider universal screening prior to athletic events.
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