Everybody Except Teachers Unions Loves the CDC’s Revised School Distancing Guidelines
As foreshadowed last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Friday morning shortened its recommended distance between K-12 students from six feet to three feet, a change that could hasten full-time schooling for millions of remote and hybrid learners.
“We don’t really have the evidence that 6 feet is required in order to maintain low spread,” CDC Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force leader Greta Massetti told the Associated Press.
The funny thing is, they didn’t really have that evidence five weeks ago, either, yet that didn’t prevent the CDC from issuing a global outlier of a school reopening guidance that, if followed to the letter, would have kept most American public schools half-open at best well into the fall.
The negative reaction to that teachers union–influenced February 12 document, not just from outspoken school-opening advocates such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis but also scientists, left-leaning media outlets, and some Democratic-run polities, undermined the CDC’s credibility, and led directly to several school districts delaying or even reversing plans to reopen.
The new recommendations include bringing down plastic barriers (“We don’t have a lot of evidence of their effectiveness,” Massetti told the A.P.), maintaining six feet of distance in middle and high schools in high-spread communities, and having everyone wear masks.
The revision brings the CDC closer in line with the epidemiological and pediatric researchers, the global public health community, and the professed opinion last July of its current director, Rochelle Walensky. But one category of “stakeholder,” unsurprisingly, isn’t happy: teachers unions.
“They are compromising the one enduring public health missive that we’ve gotten from the beginning of this pandemic in order to squeeze more kids into schools,” American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten told The Washington Post this week. “I think that is problematic until we have real evidence in these harder-to-open places about what the effect is.”
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