Is 3 feet enough social distancing to reopen schools?

Reduced social distancing could give more schools room to bring students back
By: | March 12, 2021
Researchers say three feet of social distancing may be just as safe as six, as long as students and staff wear masks.Researchers say three feet of social distancing may be just as safe as six, as long as students and staff wear masks.

Six feet of social distancing has prevented some schools from reopening where classrooms aren’t large enough to accomodate the widely accepted safety measure.

A study released this week, however, backs growing evidence that three feet may be just as effective in preventing COVID transmissions.

Researchers examined COVID cases among students and staff in Massachusetts public schools with masking requirements but different physical distancing policies.

During the 16-week study period, 537,336 students and 99,390 staff participated in-person instruction.


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Student and staff case rates were similar in the 242 districts whether they required three feet or six feet of physical distancing.

This led the researchers to conclude that lower physical distancing would not increase COVID risks as long all students and staff are wearing masks.

“Increasing physical distancing requirements from 3 to 6 feet in school settings is not associated with a reduction in SARS-CoV-2 cases among students or staff, provided other mitigation measures, such as universal masking, are implemented. These findings may be used to update guidelines about SARS-CoV-2 mitigation measures in school settings.,” the researchers wrote.