School closings have been a contentious issue since the pandemic started, and a new study has sparked debate over the 6-foot rule of social distancing and whether it can be relaxed in the classroom, which would make it easier for children to get to school.
The new study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases last week, suggests that public schools may be safe to reopen for personal instruction as long as children are three feet apart and other mitigation measures such as carrying Masks are respected.
Jill Biden and members of her husband’s administration embarked on a concerted campaign for the safe reopening of schools as parents and educators grew increasingly frustrated with recurring politics from district to district.
When asked about Jake Tapper’s new report on CNN’s State of the Union program on Sunday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, admits that the study appears to be three feet long enough to contain transmission of the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not yet issued official guidelines on shortening the recommended six-foot rule, although Dr. Fauci said the agency is investigating the data.
“What the CDC wants to do is collect data, and when data shows you are three feet tall, they will act accordingly,” said Dr. Fauci. He added that the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, was informed about the new research results and that the CDC is also carrying out its own studies. “I don’t want to be ahead of the official guidelines,” he said.
March 14, 2021, 6:19 p.m. ET
While the CDC’s advice remains at six feet of social distancing between students, the World Health Organization has recommended one meter or 3.3 feet of distancing, and the study found the latter was enough to limit school-related cases. The CDC recommendations call for six feet of social distancing in schools in counties with high coronavirus transmission rates. CDC officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Some experts have said toning down social distancing recommendations could be an important step in getting kids back into the classroom. Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health, suggested on Twitter that the CDC guidelines may change, and that’s “good. Because 6 feet doesn’t protect teachers. But it keeps kids out of school. “
“Do you want to open schools safely? Masks. Ventilation. Testing. Vaccination of teachers / staff. That’s the list, ”wrote Dr. Yeh.
The new study, released on Wednesday, compared the incidence rates of virus cases among students and staff in Massachusetts school districts that required at least two meters of separation with those that required only three meters of separation, and found none to be statistically significant Differences in infection rates among employees or students.
Updated March 9, 2021
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The researchers, who controlled community rates of coronavirus in their analysis, concluded that lower physical distancing policies can be safely applied in schools as long as other measures such as universal masking are in place.
The study’s authors looked at infection rates among staff and students in approximately 242 school districts in Massachusetts with varied face-to-face tuition from September 24 to January 27.
Children are less likely to need to be hospitalized when infected with the coronavirus, and children under the age of 10 are less likely to be infected than teenagers. The actual incidence of infections may not be known, however, as children and adolescents are far less likely to develop serious illnesses than adults and are less likely to be tested.