The nation’s leading infectious disease expert said he expects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update school reopening guidance to reflect that 3 feet of distancing between students is safe. Dr. Anthony Fauci's comments, made on NBC News’ TODAY on Thursday, come a day after the CDC's director was pressed on the topic during a House subcommittee hearing.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday had said the CDC is "actively" looking at additional studies on whether students can be spaced 3 feet apart instead of the currently recommended 6 feet, and when asked if the agency would be issuing new guidance said they were "looking to do it soon." She did not indicate when "soon" would be.
On Thursday, Fauci, who was also a part of Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing, said that he thinks "that will likely happen," and that the CDC is currently "analyzing that data very carefully right now… They will reconsider about that distance."
He said the distance studies may also have implications for general distancing guidelines.
The revelations from Walensky and Fauci come about a week after a researcher behind an opinion piece that claimed the CDC misinterpreted data on school distancing had said that an unnamed source at the agency expected a shift in guidance to come "soon."
"As soon as our guidance came out it became very clear that 6 feet was among things keeping schools closed," Walensky said on Wednesday, adding that the initial recommendations were based on early data.
Several ongoing studies and recently concluded studies including one involving a Massachusetts district where mask-wearing was at 100% aim to address whether transmission rates of coronavirus remains the same at the two distances. The Massachusetts study suggests that transmission can be kept low at 3 feet with other mitigation measures, such as mask-wearing and handwashing, in place.