U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CDC eases social distancing guidelines for elementary school students

March 19, 2021
Federal officials say elementary school students need to remain only three feet apart in classrooms as long as everyone is wearing a mask.

Federal health officials have relaxed the six-foot distancing rule for elementary school students, saying they need to remain only three feet apart in classrooms as long as everyone is wearing a mask.

The New York Times reports that the three-foot rule also now applies to students in middle schools and high schools, as long as community transmission is not high. When transmission is high, however, these students must be at least six feet apart, unless they are taught in cohorts, or small groups that are kept separate from others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the six-foot rule still applies for teachers and other adults who work in schools, who must maintain that distance from other adults and from students.

The six foot rule also still applies in common areas of schools—lobbies and auditoriums, as well a any time students are eating or drinking and cannot wear a mask, and during activities that involve more exhalation — like singing, shouting, band practice, sports or any exercise.

Such activities “should be moved outdoors or to large well-ventilated spaces whenever possible," the CDC says.

The new guidance emphasizes that good air flow and ventilation in school buildings is a critical component of maintaining a safe environment, and continues to stress multiple layers of preventive behaviors including universal masking, hand washing, cleaning buildings and doing contact tracing, combined with isolation and quarantine.

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