CDC says only 3-foot social distancing needed in schools

(Allison Huang)

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today relaxed its coronavirus guidance for schools, most notably changing its social distancing guidelines from 6 feet to 3 feet, a departure from the near-ubiquitous 6-foot distancing standard.

Guidance specifies that elementary schoolers should be at least 3 feet apart, with middle and high schoolers following that same requirement in areas of low, moderate or substantial community transmission. Middle and high schoolers should remain 6 feet apart in communities with high transmission rates, but only if cohorting in small groups is not possible.

Cohorts, which the CDC defines as “a distinct group that stays together throughout the entire school day,” should remain 6 feet from one another.

Currently, Santa Clara County is defined as low transmission as per the CDC’s standards.

The CDC also removed language suggesting that schools put up physical barriers between students, and added the new suggestion that schools improve ventilation by opening windows; using exhaust fans in restrooms; and optimizing heating, ventilation and air conditioning settings for maximum ventilation. Previously, critics had expressed concern that the CDC’s guidance made no mention of ventilation.

It is not immediately clear if the California Department of Public Health, whose school reopening guidance Santa Clara County follows, will amend its guidance to fall in line with the CDC.

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