The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines today regarding social distancing between children in K-12 school settings. The previous recommended distance of 6 feet was changed to 3 feet in lieu of new research. The shorter distance is recommended only between kids, not teachers and staff, and only when they are masked up.

New research from Massachusetts revealed that it made little difference if students and staff in elementary, middle and high schools were spaced 3 or 6 feet apart.

“In elementary schools, students should be at least 3 feet apart,” reads the new guidance.  “In middle schools and high schools, students should be at least 3 feet apart in areas of low, moderate, or substantial community transmission. In areas of high community transmission, middle and high school students should be 6 feet apart if cohorting is not possible.”

When masks aren’t being worn, such as when students are eating in the cafeteria, more distance is still necessary. Activities such as lunch and recess should be moved outdoors whenever possible.

Six feet of distance should be maintained “Between adults (teachers and staff), and between adults and students, at all times in the school building,” said the guidance. “Several studies have found that transmission between staff is more common than transmission between students and staff, and among students, in schools.”

Schools should implement six feet of social distancing “During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band, or sports and exercise,” said the advice. Move these activities outdoors or to large, well-ventilated space, when possible.”

Six feet of space between people was also recommended in common areas such as lobbies and auditoriums.

The ability to maintain six feet of social distancing has been an obstacle to schools reopening for in-person instruction. This new advice, along with other strategies, such as eliminating meetings and lunches whenever possibly, having kids’ desks all face the same way and more widespread screening tests should make it easier for schools to reopen, which the CDC recommended last month.

This is also a reminder that six feet of distance isn’t always the rule, and that people should use common sense in different situations to stay safe.

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