December 4, 2023

Giani Clarke, 18, a senior at Wilson High School, is taking a test in her AP Statistics class. The desks are being doubled to create more social distance.

Ben Hasty | MediaNews Group | Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday revised their guidelines on social distancing in schools, stating that most students can now sit three feet apart instead of six feet while wearing masks.

The recommendation applies to all K-12 students regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, or significant, according to the CDC.

In communities with high transmission rates, the CDC recommends that middle and high school students stay at least three feet apart if schools cannot keep students and teachers in assigned groups, the agency said. In elementary schools, where younger children have been shown to have a lower risk of transmitting the virus than teenagers, children wearing masks can stay within three feet of them, according to the CDC.

The CDC said it continues to recommend a separation of at least two meters between adults in schools, as well as between adults and students. It is also recommended that you maintain a social distance of two meters in public areas, while dining, during indoor activities such as tape exercises and sports, and in environments outside of the classroom.

“CDC is committed to being at the forefront of science and to update our guidelines as new information becomes available,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a statement. “Through safe, face-to-face tuition, 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.”

The updated guidelines from the federal health authorities come from a study published last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, which indicated that public schools could be safely reopened as long as the children were three feet apart and other mitigation measures such as wearing masks were enforced were.

Some schools had complained that adhering to the six-foot rule was impractical. The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both reached a social distance of three feet.

Walensky told lawmakers on Wednesday that the CDC was working on updated guidelines for schools. The Chief Medical Officer of the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that curtailed social guidelines were “likely” to happen. He was also asked about the study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases on Sunday.

“What the CDC wants to do is they want to collect data, and if the data shows that there is an ability to be 3 feet, they will act on it,” Fauci told CNN. “I can assure you that, within a reasonable time, they will, quite reasonably, issue guidelines that are consistent with the data they have.”

President Joe Biden has made the safe reopening of the country’s schools for personal learning a focus of his first 100 days in office. Some parents have had to stay home to watch their children instead of going to work.

The government has announced that it will invest $ 10 billion from the recently passed stimulus package in Covid-19 tests for schools to accelerate the return to face-to-face learning across the country. The money will be used in part to provide diagnostic tests for symptomatic teachers, staff, and students, as well as those who have no symptoms but may have been exposed to an infectious person.

The CDC came under scrutiny last month after Walensky stated teachers do not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before schools can safely reopen. The White House fell back on Walensky’s comments, and Biden later urged states to prioritize vaccination of teachers and school staff.

“Let me be clear, we can reopen schools if the right steps are taken before staff are vaccinated,” Biden said at the White House on March 2. “But time and again we have heard from educators and parents who are concerned about it.”

–CNBC’s Will Feuer contributed to this report.