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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has changed school policy to encourage desks to be closer together.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has changed school policy to encourage desks to be closer together.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has changed school policy to encourage desks to be closer together.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has changed school policy to encourage desks to be closer together.

 

Students will sit 3 feet apart in the classroom if they wear masks, but they should sit 6 feet apart at sports activities, assemblies, lunch, or chorus practice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which relaxed its COVID-19 recommendations on Friday.

The new guidelines reflect a departure from the 6-foot norm, which has severely restricted the number of students that some schools can accommodate. To hold children apart, some places have had to cut chairs, stagger scheduling, and take other steps.

According to Kevin Quinn, director of maintenance and services at Mundelein High School in suburban Chicago, three foot “gives school districts more versatility to get more students in for a longer period of time.”

In recent months, schools in several states have ignored the CDC guidelines and implemented a 3 foot standard instead. According to Greta Massetti, who heads the CDC’s neighborhood interventions task force, studies of what occurred in some of them influenced the agency’s decision.

While there is evidence that in-person schooling improves mental health and provides other benefits, “we don’t really have the evidence that 6 feet is needed to sustain low spread,” she said.

Furthermore, younger children are less likely to become severely ill from the coronavirus and do not seem to spread it as widely as adults, which “allows us the assurance the that 3 feet of physical distance is safe,” according to Massetti.

The revised guidelines are as follows:

— Plastic shields or other barriers between desks are no longer recommended. According to Massetti, “we don’t have a lot of evidence of their effectiveness” in preventing transmission.

— In elementary schools, at least 3 feet between desks is recommended, including in towns and cities where population spread is high, as long as students and teachers wear masks and take other precautions.

— Says middle and high school spacing can be 3 feet as long as there isn’t a lot of spread in the neighborhood. If there is, the distance between them should be at least 6 feet.

In common spaces, such as school lobbies, and where masks cannot be worn, such as when feeding, the CDC recommends that 6 feet be preserved.

In environments where there are a lot of people talking, cheering, or singing, students should be held 6 feet apart. Both of these activities will expel droplets containing the coronavirus. Choral rehearsals, assemblies, and sporting activities all fall into this category.

According to the CDC, teachers and other adults can maintain a 6-foot separation from one another and from students.

The updated guidelines, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, are a “evidence-based guide to help schools reopen safely, and stay accessible, for in-person teaching.”

In a statement, she said, “Safe in-person instruction allows our kids access to vital social and mental health resources that prepare them for the future, in addition to the education they need to succeed.”

Last year, the CDC recommended that schools keep children 6 feet apart in order to function safely, a requirement that also extended to workplaces and other environments.

In colleges, however, the World Health Organization recommended a gap of one meter, or slightly more than three feet. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, desks should be 3 feet apart, with 6 feet being optimal.

For many schools, the CDC advice was troublesome since they had historically had 25, 30, or more children per classroom in close-knit desks. Some schools implemented complex scheduling, such as having half of a class come to school on certain days and the other half on other days.

After the CDC stressed the 6-foot rule last summer, the Ridley School District in suburban Philadelphia took action like this to follow it. However, neighboring communities chose 3 feet, and the district’s superintendent, Lee Ann Wentzel, said, “we’re not seeing the data really represent a different spread rate.”

Starting next month, the district will introduce 3-foot distancing and allow all students to participate five days a week. Wentzel, on the other hand, said she was relieved to learn of the CDC’s change in policy because it would make it easier to clarify and support the district’s decision.

Infections of students and staff members in schools that used the 3-foot standard versus those that used the 6-foot standard were examined in a recent study in Massachusetts. There was no discernible change in infection rates.

Other study, including two studies released by the CDC on Friday, has also had an effect, according to Massetti.

One research in Utah found low rates of coronavirus transmission among students who wore masks well and sat at desks that were only 3 feet apart. According to Massetti, the other report, which was conducted in Missouri, came to the same conclusion.

The change in guidance comes at a time when new, more infectious coronavirus strains are on the rise. According to Massetti, this implies a continuing emphasis on mask use and other preventative measures.

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