Fauci: CDC likely to shorten distancing guidance for schools

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.

What’s in a yard? 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.

But the agency insists on six feet. 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.