Citing new research, the CDC announced today that 3-feet of distance among students is sufficient in the classroom so long as masks and other safety steps are taken to prevent COVID-19 spread. Courtesy/freepik.com
ALBUQUERQUE – American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly released the following statement:
“We, like all New Mexicans, want to see students and educators return to classrooms as soon as possible, but today’s physical distancing guideline revisions by the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) should give all students, parents and educators pause.
“While positive progress has been made regarding access and administration of vaccines for educational staff, a vaccine alone is not a silver bullet for making our places of learning safe. Vaccines are only one piece, among many, of the strategy for safely re-entering our buildings and classrooms.
“We also question abandoning the pandemic’s most enduring safety strategy, namely ensuring a 6-foot distance between individuals, as rapid changes in health and safety guidance not only cause confusion but can undermine public trust in science-based guidance. We, like many education professionals and organizations across the country, urge the CDC to continue their research and understanding of the impact of reduced distancing by expanding their research to broader, more representative sampling of our communities. Additionally, we hope future CDC guidance decisions will more fully consider a totality of other factors which impact safety in schools, including the extent of aerosol spread of COVID-19 through substandard or outdated ventilation.
“Locally, while we appreciate the high ventilation standards required for New Mexico’s re-entry guidelines, these are only temporary, and we urge members of the Legislature to pass House Bill 232 before the end of the session to ensure New Mexico’s high standards for in-school air quality are codified. As noted by the US Government Accountability Office in a June 2020 report, lack of maintenance and updates to ventilation systems can cause ‘serious consequences’ such as ‘lost educational time due to school closings.’
“House Bill 232 would institute a more thorough and consistent process for inspection and remediation of New Mexico’s dated school ventilation systems while setting minimum air quality standards for the continued health and safety of all who enter our public school buildings, especially with today’s reduced distancing guidelines from the CDC.”