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US Backs Distance of 3 Feet Between Students, Which May Help Schools Open

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The U.S. government on Friday updated the COVID-19 simplification guideline to minimize the acceptable distance between students wearing masks to at least three feet from at least six feet, possibly facilitating the path for schools that have struggled to reopen under previous recommendations.

The new recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a reinforcement of the Biden administration’s goal of reopening personal learning for millions of public school students without igniting the virus.

Many schools continue to teach students from as far away as a year after the novel coronavirus prompted widespread closures across the United States.

The new guidelines apply to students from kindergarten through high school and in areas of low, medium, and large COVID-19 community delivery. Middle and high school students in communities with high COVID-19 levels should stay six feet away unless their contact with the schoolday may be limited to a small group of students and staff.

Students must continue to maintain six feet of distance when interacting with teachers and other school staff and when eating, the CDC said.

The CDC is under pressure to rest its guidance on schools and Director Rochelle Walensky said this week that the agency is looking at data in part from a recent Massachusetts study that suggested tighter spacing does not affect the delivery of COVID-19.

Many schools do not have space in classrooms to maintain six feet between students, and outside of the U.S. health agency recommendations for social isolation begins at nearly three feet and range of more than six.

The guideline urged schools to conduct comprehensive COVID-19 testing on students and said that regular use of screening tests offers additional protection for schools that require fewer at six feet of separation.

School districts should expand screening for students participating in sports or other extracurricular activities, and consider general screening prior to sporting events.

The agency continues to recommend quarantines for anyone within six feet of a person sick with COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

The White House said Wednesday it will allocate $ 10 billion to states to support the COVID-19 review process for faculty, staff and students to help schools pursue instruction in person.

The CDC says students are required to wear masks on school buses and any other types of public transportation they use to get to school. The agency issued an order in February requiring travelers to wear a mask when using public transportation.

The Biden administration has urged states to vaccinate teachers and child care workers, with the goal of getting all of them by the end of March.

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