- The federal guidelines for schools providing in-person instruction call for the prioritisation of two mitigation strategies, including at least six feet of physical distancing.
PUBLISHED ON MAR 14, 2021 10:11 PM IST
Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci on Sunday hinted at a major change in the country’s key social distancing rule that has been at the centre of global flight against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. Speaking at CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ show, the 80-year-old immunologist said authorities were considering cutting the physical distancing requirement to three feet.
The latest federal guidelines for schools providing in-person instruction call for the prioritisation of two mitigation strategies, including at least six feet of physical distancing. “To ensure physical distancing, schools should establish policies and implement structural interventions to promote physical distance of at least 6 feet between people,” the advised mitigation strategy reads. However, the rules in the US state of Massachusetts allow school desks spaced as little as three feet apart.
Fauci said that experts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were examining a Massachusetts study that found “no substantial difference” in Covid-19 cases in schools implementing six-foot and three-foot rules. When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether the findings from the Massachusetts study meant three-foot separation was sufficient, Fauci replied, “It does, indeed.”
The six-foot physical distancing rule has been widely adopted across the world to prevent the spread of Covid-19 but the requirement has caused problems for schools, especially those with limited infrastructure, to reopen. The minimum distance of three-foot for reopening of schools has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
“Physical distance between desks should follow current public health guidance, and desks should be placed at least 3 feet apart and ideally 6 feet apart,” the AAP guidance reads.
The study on the effectiveness of three versus six feet of physical distancing for controlling Covid-19 transmission among primary and secondary students surveyed 251 school districts and the findings were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The researchers found “no substantial difference” in Covid-19 cases among either students or staff between those observing the three- and six-foot rules, suggesting lower physical distancing policies can be adopted in school settings “with masking mandates without negatively impacting student or staff safety.”
A change in social distancing rule could have a huge impact on prospects for fully reopening schools, offices and public areas.
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