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Study: 3 feet of distance in a classroom could be enough to limit the spread of COVID-19

The CDC is looking at a new study that would shift its guidelines on physical distancing in schools.

TAMPA, Fla. — Spring break ends in just a few days for a lot of students in the Tampa Bay area. One of the biggest challenges with getting more kids back in school buildings is trying to keep six feet of distance in the classroom, but a new study shows students may only need to be three feet apart.  

This study looked at Massachusetts schools over 16 weeks, with half a million students and nearly 100,000 teachers. Some classrooms kept students six feet apart and others only three feet.  Researchers found that all classes, no matter the distance, had nearly the same number of COVID-19 cases reported. It's also important to note, all kids in those schools were required to wear masks.

"Kids are pretty good with masks, the teacher, you generally have one teacher and the kids are cohorted, and generally speaking the kids listen pretty well," said USF virologist Dr. Michael Teng.

Dr. Teng says schools still should consider other mitigations to limit the spread of COVID-19.

"But I think ventilation is going to be really important in those places where you have to crowd a little bit. In Florida it's easy for us, you can open a window if the windows open."

There's also been some disagreement when it comes to the six-foot distancing rule. The World Health Organization says one meter of distance, or just over three feet, is good.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends desks are at least three feet apart and up to six feet if possible.

Another option many schools are using to keep kids safely distanced is holding classes in a nontraditional environment. Many teachers are taking kids outside on nice days or even moving classes into larger areas like the cafeterias or gyms.

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