The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) is asking for some answers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On Friday, March 19, the CDC issued a new edict that, in school, students only needed to be three feet apart, not the six feet that the CDC has been recommending and states have been enforcing for more than a year.

“Social distancing” for Americans for the past year has meant keeping six feet of distance between people who aren’t members of the same living group.  Grocery stores and other retail establishments are required by law to have six foot intervals marked on the floor where people tend to congregate, such as checkout lines.

Restaurants are required to place their tables so that the people dining at the tables are six feet from any diner at a different table.

Schools until last week were similarly required to keep students six feet apart, but Friday, March 19, the CDC issued new guidance and the NCAE is asking why.

In a press release, NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly states, “For the sake of public trust and clarity, we urge the CDC to provide far more detail about the rationale for the change from 6 feet to 3 feet for students in schools, clearly and publicly account for differences in types of school environments, new virus variants, differences in mitigation compliance, and how study participants were tested for the virus.  We are concerned that the CDC has changed one of the basic rules for how to ensure school safety without demonstrating certainty that the change is justified by the science and can be implemented in a manner that does not detract from the larger long term needs of students.”

Kelly noted, “From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCAE has urged that we follow the science in determining how best to ensure the safety of students, families and educators.  With the CDC changing their guidance today around minimum social distancing in schools from 6 feet to 3 feet in elementary schools, we want to emphasize that 3 feet is an absolute minimum not the ideal.  The CDC continues to recommend keeping students and teachers in cohorts throughout the day, maintaining 6 feet of distance between those groups whenever possible, and continuing to strictly adhere to other safety protocols, including constant masking and vigilant hand washing in order to keep educators and students as safe as possible.”

The CDC guideline recommends keeping the six-foot spacing rule in “common areas, such as school lobbies and auditoriums.”  So according to the CDC, in classrooms students only need to be three feet apart, but the same students in an auditorium need to be six feet apart.

It’s no wonder the NCAE would like to see the science and data that supports this CDC guidance.