March 15, 2021

Effectiveness of 3- vs 6-feet of social distancing in controlling spread of COVID-19 in schools

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

This study led by researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston finds no significant difference in COVID-19 cases in students and staff at schools observing 6-feet and 3-feet social distancing rules.

Researchers compared incident cases of COVID-19 in 537,336 students and 99,390 staff in 251 public school districts in Massachusetts with different social distancing requirements.


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Unadjusted rates were:

  • 3,223 student cases in districts with distancing rules of 6-feet
  • 895 student cases in districts with distancing rules of 3-feet
  • 2,382 staff cases in districts with distancing rules of 6-feet
  • 431 staff cases in districts with distancing rules of 3-feet.

Results were similar after adjusting for community incidence.

The researchers concluded that lower social distancing policies can be adopted in schools with masking mandates without negatively impacting student or staff safety.

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