AUGUSTA – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) today issued updated operational strategies for K-12 schools based on a review of scientific evidence regarding physical distancing in classrooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These updates further align Federal guidelines with longstanding guidance implemented by the State of Maine for Maine schools in July 2020.
“Maine school staff and leaders have done an outstanding job of implementing the health and safety requirements that have kept our schools and students safe, requirements that have now been mirrored by the U.S. CDC,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “Our schools have been open and educating students safely all year long, unlike many of the schools across the country. Our education workforce deserves our deep appreciation and support for all they have done, during this last year and I am in awe of their efforts.”
“The U.S. CDC’s announcement today affirms safety protocols that have been part of Maine’s framework since last year,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “These protocols continue to reflect best practices in limiting potential spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. As new research emerges, we will continue to work with our federal partners and Maine’s education community to provide tools that local school districts can use to make informed decisions about how to keep students and staff safe.”
In July 2020, with limited Federal guidance, Maine developed and implemented a Framework for Return to In-Person Instruction. This framework – developed in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine CDC – includes recommendations for schools and six requirements, such as physical distancing, mask wearing and other measures, to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission within schools. Under these requirements, adults must maintain six feet of distance from others to the extent possible while maintaining 3 feet of distance is acceptable between and among students when combined with the other safety requirements, including the wearing of masks. These strategies have proven effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19; to date, the new case rates for Maine schools continues to be significantly lower than that of the general population.
In February 2021, the U.S. CDC released Federal recommendations to assist schools across the country in returning safely to in-person instruction. At that time, the U.S. CDC recommended that students maintain six feet of distance among all students, a more stringent requirement than Maine
Today, the U.S. CDC adjusted this previous recommendation to, in effect, adopt Maine’s longstanding approach. Specifically, US CDC adjusted their previous recommendation of 6 feet between students to 3 feet between students in classrooms with universal mask wearing. The U.S. CDC continues to recommend at least 6 feet of distance:
- Between adults in the school building and between adults and students.
- In common areas such as school lobbies and auditoriums.
- When masks can’t be worn, such as when eating or drinking.
- During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band practice, sports, or exercise. These activities should be moved outdoors or to large, well-ventilated spaces whenever possible.
- In community settings outside of the classroom.
Maine will continue to use its existing approach and will re-examine its requirements if the U.S. CDC makes any further adjustments.