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State must allow distancing changes

Friday’s decision by the Centers for Disease Control to change the federal guidance on in-school social distancing from 6 feet to 3 feet could be helpful to schools seeking to bring more students back into school buildings.

We say that because the decision is only helpful if the New York state Health Department follows suit and changes its guidance to schools, too.

As we reported multiple times last week, the CDC decision doesn’t actually mean much because it doesn’t supersede the state’s order. Local school districts are governed by the New York state rules.

The CDC’s guidance changes also removes recommendations for plastic shields or other barriers between desks, advises at least 3 feet of space between desks in elementary schools, even in towns and cities where community spread is high, so long as students and teachers wear masks and take other precautions, and says spacing can also be 3 feet in middle and high schools, so long as there is not a high level of spread in the community. If there is, the distance should be at least 6 feet.

New York state should adopt the CDC guidelines and do so quickly. Giving schools clear guidance will help them figure out how to configure crowded spaces like lunchrooms so that students can learn in school buildings. The state must make sure it is on the same page with the CDC and avoid keeping students at home unnecessarily.

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