Health Care

Fauci: CDC likely to shorten distancing guidance for schools

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will probably update its social distancing guidance for schools, reducing recommendations from 6 feet to 3 feet, Anthony Fauci said Thursday. 

“You know, I think that likely will happen,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s “Today” show.

Fauci mentioned a recent study in Massachusetts, which found that 3 feet of separation in schools combined with consistent mask wearing is just as safe as 6 feet. 

The study compared 251 school districts with different distancing requirements, and found little difference in case rates among students and staff members, so long as everyone wore masks.

“So the CDC is analyzing that data very carefully right now. They very well may change. I don’t want to get ahead of them. But they are very much on top of this and looking at that data. So they will reconsider about that distance,” Fauci said.

Three feet is the minimum distance endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. For many schools, keeping students 6 feet apart is not feasible. In some cases, there’s no distancing at all.

The CDC’s insistence on 6 feet of separation has been a flash point of the school reopening debate. The agency has acknowledged that in-person schooling is not a major driver of community spread and that virus transmission is rarer in schools compared with the surrounding community.

Yet the most recent CDC guidance suggests that schools located in communities with low or moderate virus transmission implement 6 feet of distancing “to the greatest extent possible.” 

The agency guidance says 6 feet is “required” in places with substantial or high transmission, which it considers to be the vast majority of the country.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday told lawmakers the agency is “looking to update” its guidance, but did not necessarily commit to a timeline.

“As soon as our guidance came out, it became very clear that 6 feet was among the things that was keeping schools closed, and in that context, science evolves,” Walensky told members of the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee.

Tags Anthony Fauci CDC CDC guidance Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus physical distancing Rochelle Walensky schools Social distancing

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