NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new social distancing guideline for in-classroom instruction. Students can now sit three feet away from each other instead of six feet.
Some Hampton Roads school divisions may be staying with six feet as the safe distance. A local pediatrician says the new guidelines could work if followed correctly.
“Never in my life have I had to have a conversation with a family about whether or not if it’s safe for the 7-year-old to go to a school," said pediatrician Elizabeth Broderick.
Dr. Broderick agreed with the CDC’s decision to change the social distance guidelines in the classroom from six feet to three feet.
“It’s good that our kids can be a little closer together in the classroom because we’re seeing huge difficulties with virtual learning. We’re seeing a lot more of anxiety and depression," said Broderick.
Hampton City Schools officials expressed they are working to maintain the six-foot distance as much as possible, although there are times when three feet may be needed.
"Our division's established protocols have been six (6) feet of physical distancing to the greatest extent possible. However, we recognized six (6) feet may not be maintained at all times and in all situations. In those situations, Hampton City Schools has continued to support a minimum distance of three (3) feet of physical distance as directed by American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization," a school official said in a statement.
Portsmouth Public school leaders also replied that they will continue with the 6-foot guideline and will evaluate their protocols after students return on April 12.
The updated CDC guidelines say the social distance rule applies to all students with some restrictions.
Elementary students will be able to use the 3-feet rule in all transmission areas. But the rule only applies to middle and high school students who are in low, moderate, and substantial areas and will have to keep at least six-feet in other areas.
Broderick explained the new guideline can work if every student wears a mask.
The CDC made the decision based on multiple studies claiming many students will be safe if they wear their masks. Broderick expressed people should keep in mind different COVID variants that were not studied.
“The UK variant was not in Massachusetts when they did this study. So the big takeaway from three feet is got to have your mask on and keep your mask on," said Broderick.
The CDC also announced that proper ventilation systems inside of schools are a main strategy to help clean and maintain a healthy living and learning environment.