The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is “actively” looking at additional studies on whether schools can safely reopen with students spaced three-feet apart rather than six-feet, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency director, said Wednesday during a subcommittee hearing on the nation’s coronavirus vaccine efforts.
When pressed on when the public could possibly see the agency issue a change to current guidance, which recommends 6-feet of distancing, Walensky said the CDC is “looking to do it soon.”
She stopped short of predicting exactly when “soon” would be.
Walensky’s testimony comes about week after a researcher who penned an opinion piece claiming the CDC misinterpreted findings, including data on safe distancing in the classroom, told Fox News that an unnamed employee at the agency expects a shift in the agency’s guidance to come “soon.”
Walensky, along with Dr. Anthony Fauci and the FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks appeared before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce to testify during the “Leading the Way Forward: Biden Administration Actions to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations” hearing. Committee members pressed Fauci and Walensky on school reopening guidance and the mental health impact the pandemic has had on the country.
Citing the initial CDC guidance that recommended six-feet of distancing between students, Walensky said the agency was working with the data that was available at the time. Several ongoing studies, including an already published review of a Massachusetts district where mask-wearing was at 100%, aim to address whether transmission of coronavirus remains the same between the two distances.
“As soon as our guidance came out it became very clear that 6-feet was among things keeping schools closed,” Walensky said.
On the subject on mental health, Walensky said the country has a lot of work to do to address the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, and that “it’s hard to pit one crisis over another.”
“I, too, am concerned about the mental health of our children, and we are working very hard to get our schools open,” she said.
While studies on vaccine safety and efficacy in children and adolescents is ongoing, Walensky said that testing in the schools once teachers are vaccinated could be an effective method in shutting down clusters and preventing widespread transmission.