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Calls for three feet of distancing at schools, instead of six

Posted at 12:14 AM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 00:18:17-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Six feet, it's been the standard for social distancing for a year. It's what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for students in schools.

There is new evidence that suggests, in schools, there may be no difference between three feet and six feet of distance, when it comes to the spread of COVID-19. That's from this study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“It's what we've been waiting for. Three feet is what all school districts need to open fully,” said Tarja Parssinen, a member of WNY Students First.

The group WNY Students First, is pushing local health officials to return students to in-person classes. The group says the unintended effects of remote and hybrid learning are causing more problems for a large majority of students than pandemic itself.

“Kids are going to the mall. They're on travel teams. They're going away for travel sports. Why aren’t schools open yet,” asked Amy Leach, a member of WNY Students First.

The group has recently called on the Erie County Department of Health, specifically, Commissioner Gale Burstein to allow more students into schools. Burstein says that’s not something she has the ability to control.

“Our county attorney has advised us that local health departments in New York State are not allowed to develop policies for the schools, that those policies are developed by the New York State Education Department and the New York State health Department,” said Burstein at an Erie County COVID-19 update on Tuesday.

The New York Department of Health outlines that less than six feet is allowed, in schools, if there are barriers between students. Barriers would be an expensive cost for districts, but WNY Students First believes the recent stimulus package could cover the costs.

“Each school district has received huge windfalls from the COVID relief fund which President Biden allocated, specifically to open schools and get our kids back in there,” added Parssinen.

Burstein says some schools fear legal action if they drop spacing below six feet.

“We've been told by Erie One and Two BOCES that if schools deviate from the recommended New York State guidelines, for example changing the six feet social distancing to three feet social distancing in the classrooms, then they will not be covered by their insurance carrier,” said added Burstein.

The director of the CDC said on Monday, that it is looking at this data closely.