ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Space has been a challenge for schools trying to achieve healthy social distancing. But a new study suggests safety can be achieved with less than 6 feet of space when using protocols like masks.
The study, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, suggests that 3 feet may be just as effective as 6 feet when it comes to safe physical distancing and controlling the spread of COVID-19 among both primary and secondary students and staff.
The authors of the study compared infection rates in Massachusetts schools, which required a minimum of 3 feet of social distancing as compared to other school districts which require at least 6 feet.
The conclusion? No significant differences in cases.
This was, of course, when everyone was also adhering to other safety protocols such as mask wearing.
The study has grabbed the attention of not only the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but also Capital Region superintendents like Dr. David Perry, of the South Colonie Central School District, where grades 7-12 are on a hybrid schedule and 20 percent of the secondary grades are virtual learners.
“Three feet is very much achievable and would allow us to return to normal capacity for in-person instruction. It would be a game changer for our students,” said Perry.
During a press conference on Monday, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy appeared to agree.
“It’s time. A lot of these kids have had major setbacks,” he said.
But Andrew Pallotta of the New York State United Teachers says if you want change, start with more COVID testing in schools.
“So, we don’t know if anyone is asymptomatic. So, I would rather have 6 feet or a barrier and a mask.”
NEWS10’s Anya Tucker questioned Pallotta: “But apparently it is working in the state of Massachusetts.”
But Pallotta’s response questioned why try to change something that’s been working?
“And New York schools have been open. You are in mid-March; we have a couple more months of school. Why mess with something that we know has been keeping students and staff safe.”