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Updated CDC guidance says 3 feet of distancing is safe in schools


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shortened its physical distancing guidelines for children in schools to recommend most students maintain at least 3 feet of distance.

The CDC had previously said schools should try to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between children.

This change comes after a new study was released in Clinical Infectious Diseases saying that it is safe for schools to open with 3 feet of distancing as long as students, teachers and staff are wearing masks.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing on Friday, that this shortened distance will only work if schools are taking other steps.

Walensky said, "These include universal and correct use of masks, physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning to maintain healthy facilities and diagnostic testing with rapid and efficient contact tracing in combination with isolation in quarantine and in collaboration with local health departments."

Jefferson City Schools have been teaching in person since August. Spokeswoman Ryan Burns said they do not plan to alter the COVID-19 re-entry protocols they have had in place since the beginning of the school year.

Burns said, "We have strived for six feet distance wherever possible, with a minimum of three feet based on the guidance provided by DESE. The new guidelines from the CDC reinforce that what we’ve been doing all year is a safe best practice."

Spokeswoman for CPS, Michelle Baumstark said the new distance being approved will not change much for the district. "We will do our best, but with the number of students and size of our district it simply is not realistic or something that we can accomplish within the physical size of our facilities and the number of students," said Baumstark.

Columbia Public Schools are set to go back to five-days-per-week in-person learning after spring break. Cases are declining in the district while vaccinations increase. Meanwhile, teachers became vaccine eligible this week.

According to the school district 14-day rate tracker on Friday, CPS had a case rate of 12.3 per 10,000 people and 17 new cases. These numbers are compared to the peak in November of 111.7 per 10,000 people and 79 new daily cases.

Baumstark said the district will continue to rely on other strategies to prevent the virus, but they will not be able to guarantee 3-6 feet of social distancing at all times. CPS also considers teacher vaccinations to be a "game changer."

As of Thursday, about 44% of CPS staff have been vaccinated compared to about a month ago when only 18% of staff were vaccinated.

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Chanel Porter

Chanel joined ABC 17 News in January 2021 after graduating from Penn State University. She enjoys traveling and a daily iced coffee.


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