Governor Inslee Announced New Guidance Allowing 3-foot Distancing in Schools
March 25, 2021 Update:
During a press briefing today, Governor Jay Inslee, along with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced new public health guidance addressing distancing between K-12 students and teachers. The new guidance aligns state guidance with that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who on March 19, 2021, revised physical distancing recommendations to reflect at least three feet between students in classrooms and provided clearer guidance when a greater distance (such as six feet) is recommended.
DOH guidance mirrors that of CDC, recommending three feet of distance between people in schools, most importantly in areas where students or staff are engaged for more than a few minutes, such as during class, reading time or quiet time.
Guidance continues to recommend at least six feet of distance be maintained for the following circumstances:
- Between staff in the school building and between adults and students.
- For all staff and students
- In common areas, such as auditoriums.
- When masks can’t be worn, such as when eating.
- During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band practice, or physical education. These activities should be moved outdoors or to large, well-ventilated spaces whenever possible.
In areas with high community transmission, CDC and DOH recommend that middle and high school students use cohorting (grouping students) and at least three feet of distance between students or at least six feet of physical distance between students if cohorting is not possible. CDC defines high community transmission as a COVID-19 case rate of greater than 200 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days or when test positivity is greater than 10%. Community case rates and test positivity are available by county on the DOH Data Dashboard.
Spokane County’s Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velazquez explained that Spokane Regional Health District anticipated the change and has been working internally to develop strategies that would accommodate the new guidance. In addition, they are working with schools to prepare processes and procedures that support these new recommendations while at the same time continue to ensure the health and safety of students, teachers and families.
“The outcomes of virtual learning have been far reaching, affecting potential academic disparities, children’s mental well-being, and unfortunately in some cases, child safety and food security,” said Velazquez. “This progression of school guidance, based on science, is encouraging and allows our schools to implement safe processes and procedures where more children can return to in-person school.”