Students can safely sit just 3 feet apart in the classroom as long as they wear masks but should be kept the usual 6 feet away from one another at sporting events, assemblies, lunch, or chorus practice, the CDC said Friday. The revised recommendations represent a turn away from the 6-foot standard that has sharply limited how many students some schools can accommodate, per the AP. In recent months, schools in some states have been disregarding the CDC guidelines, using 3 feet as their standard. Studies of what happened in some of them helped sway the agency, said Greta Massetti, who leads the CDC's community interventions task force. While there is evidence of improved mental health and other benefits from in-person schooling, “we don't really have the evidence that 6 feet is required in order to maintain low spread,” she said. The new guidance:
- Removes recommendations for plastic shields or other barriers between desks.
- Advises at least 3 feet of space between desks in elementary schools, even in towns and cities where community spread is high, so long as students and teachers wear masks and take other precautions.
- Says spacing can also be 3 feet in middle and high schools, so long as there is not a high level of spread in the community. If there is, spacing should be at least 6 feet.
- Says 6 feet should still be maintained in common areas, such as school lobbies, and when masks can't be worn, such as when eating.
- Students should be kept 6 feet apart in situations where there are a lot of people talking, cheering, or singing, all of which can expel droplets containing the coronavirus. That includes chorus practice, assemblies, and sports events.
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