Lowcountry school districts weigh in on 3 new CDC social distancing guidelines


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The CDC says it is now safe for students to be 3-feet apart from one another in the classroom as opposed to 6-feet. Lowcountry doctors said this new guidance was put in place to allow more students back in the classrooms. 

Dr. Allison Eckard, the Division Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina, said “the goal is to get the kids in school. They need to be in school.” The “three-foot rule” means that things can be different in classes, but there are still restrictions.

For example, according to Dr. Eckard, if children are eating and don’t have their masks on, 6-feet is the CDC’s Guidance.

So when does it apply? Dr. Valerie Scott, a Family Care Physician with Roper St. Francis, said the 3-foot rule only applies to students with masks on in the classroom in a pod setting. She said this is because, “in the classroom, people are still, they’re not breathing as fast, so they’re probably not causing as much spread of the droplets you know from COVID. They are required to wear their masks and they have plexiglass.”

News 2 reached out to the local districts to hear if they were planning on updating their COVID-19 guidelines to reflect the CDC’s latest guidance.

The Charleston Country School District said they, “appreciate and respect recommendations from the CDC. However, it is important for us to consult with DHEC and our local medical partners from MUSC before making any changes to our current COVID-19 protocols for our students and staff.”

Berkeley County’s School District said they anticipate they will discuss the advisement on Monday at their next board meeting.

While Dorchester District 2 said, “from an initial review, the updated guidelines and recommendations from CDC are encouraging and seem to go hand-in-hand with the mitigation strategies that we currently have in place.  As a result of our large class sizes, requiring masks, utilizing plexiglass, providing opportunities for our teachers to receive the vaccination among others, allows us the ability to bring our students back face-to-face full-time while maintaining 3’ social distancing to the extent possible. At this point, we don’t anticipate any significant changes to the health and safety protocols that we are currently utilizing that have proven to be effective.”

As for if any districts should alter their plans? Dr. Eckard said if they are doing well and are where they want to be in terms of the number of students, the latest guidance shouldn’t change anything that they are already doing. 

Aside from the change in physical distancing, the CDC also clarified that ventilation is a key component of strategies to clean and maintain healthy facilities. They also added guidance about interventions when clusters occur and removed recommendations for physical barriers.  

For more on the CDC’s latest guidelines for school safety, click here.

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