Infectious Disease

3 feet is safe distance with universal masking

March 19, 2021

1 min read

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The CDC has updated its guidelines to now recommend that students in K-12 public schools, with a few exceptions, can maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance with universal masking in the classroom.

Previously, the agency recommended a distance of 6 feet, but updated its guidelines to reflect the latest data showing that when comparing the physical distance of 3 feet and 6 feet, there isn’t a huge difference in dispersion.

However, when community transmission is high, the CDC still recommends 6 feet for middle and high school students if a cohort – or keeping the same groups of students and staff together, to reduce the risk of spread throughout the school to decrease – is not an option.

Rochelle Walensky

“CDC strives to be at the forefront of science and to update our guidance as new information becomes available,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPHsaid in a statement. “Through safe, face-to-face teaching, our children gain access to vital social and mental health services that prepare them for the future, in addition to the education they need to be successful. These updated recommendations include the evidence-based roadmap that will help schools reopen safely and stay open to face-to-face teaching. ”

The CDC continues to recommend a physical distance of 6 feet in the following scenarios:

  • in community settings outside of the classroom;
  • between adults in the school building and between adults and students;
  • in public areas such as school lobbies and auditoriums;
  • when masks cannot be worn, such as when eating food; and
  • during activities with increased exhalation such as singing, screaming, band exercises, sports or movement. If possible, these activities should be carried out outdoors or in large, well-ventilated areas.

The CDC noted that these recommendations are part of their operational strategy to safely reopen K-12 public schools, which will continue to be updated based on new and evolving evidence on SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools.

The updated CDC recommendation on physical distancing is in line with the guidelines of the AAP.

“As a nation, our priority should be to ensure that schools reopen safely so that children and young people can benefit from everything schools have to offer,” said AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAPsaid in a statement. “I hope this new, detailed guide from the CDC will help more school districts develop strategies that will enable all students to safely return to personal school as soon as possible.”

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