Is This CDC Recommendation Keeping Schools Closed Unnecessarily?

One year into the COVID pandemic sees parents across the country still working from home, still managing distance learning for their kids, and still struggling under the weight of it all. And a new study is bringing more heat to the already hot topic of school closures. The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, suggests that 3 feet, not 6 feet, might be a safe social distance in public school settings, as long as other transmission reduction protocols, like mask-wearing and safety shields, are followed.

The CDC hasn’t updated recommendations, but according to the country’s leading infectious disease expert and COVID superstar, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the organization is studying the data.

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“What the CDC wants to do is accumulate data, and when data shows ability to be three feet, they will act accordingly,” Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper. He explained that the organization is conducting its own studies on appropriate social distancing, but added, “I don’t want to get ahead of official guidelines.”

There is some suggestion that schools are remaining closed based on CDC recommendations that may be outdated. The World Health Organization recommends a distance of 1 meter (3.3 feet) in a school setting, and many think that if the CDC adopted those recommendations, schools across the country would be in a better position to reopen and lower the burden on already stressed parents and teachers. If the standards are left as is, crowded school systems such as New York City Public Schools are stuck with hybrid learning schedules in order to keep children 6 feet apart in each classroom.

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“CDC guidance on 3 ft vs 6 ft may be changing. Good,” tweeted Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “Because 6 ft doesn’t protect teachers. But it does keep kids out of school. Want to open schools safely? Masks, ventilation, testing, vaccinating teachers/staff. That’s the list.”

We’re all counting on a number of factors to come together to allow schools to open completely, including a change in social-distancing requirements and a drop in communities’ COVID infection numbers as vaccines roll out around the country. Until then, stay strong parents, our day will come.

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