CDC shortens Covid social distancing guidelines for kids in school to 3 feet with masks

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Giani Clarke,18, a senior at Wilson High School, takes a test in her AP Statistics class. The desks are doubled as a way to provide more social distancing.
Ben Hasty | MediaNews Group | Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday revised its guidance on social distancing in schools, saying most students can now sit three feet apart instead of six feet so long as they are wearing masks.

The recommendation is for all K-12 students, regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate or substantial, the CDC said.

In communities where transmission is high, the CDC recommends that middle school and high school students remain at least six feet apart if schools aren’t able to keep students and teachers in assigned groups, the agency said. In elementary schools, where younger children have been shown to be at less risk of transmitting the virus than teens, kids can stay safe at three feet apart with masks, the CDC said.

The CDC said it continues to recommend at least six feet distance between adults in schools and between adults and students. It also still recommends six feet social distancing in common areas, when eating, during in-door activities, such as band practice and sports, and in settings outside of the classroom.

“CDC is committed to leading with science and updating our guidance as new evidence emerges,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “Safe in-person instruction gives our kids access to critical social and mental health services that prepare them for the future, in addition to the education they need to succeed.”

The updated guidance from federal health officials comes after a study published last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases suggested public schools could safely reopen as long as kids were three feet apart and other mitigation measures, such as wearing masks, were enforced.

Some schools had complained that maintaining a six feet rule was not feasible. The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both OK’d three feet social distancing. White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that shortened social guidelines would “likely” happen.

–CNBC’s Will Feuer contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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