Three Feet versus Six Feet Physical Distancing

In a recent interview with Jake Tapper on CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci weighed in on the physical distancing aspect of the COVID-19 narrative, a supposed keystone of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.  Let's listen to his comments, particularly the exchange at the 7 minute mark:

Here are the key excerpts when Fauci is asked about the recent research from Massachusetts which shows that infection rates remain consistent no matter whether physical distancing is 3 feet or 6 feet:

"And that's exactly the point I'm making…What the CDC wants to do is, they want to accumulate data. And when the data shows that there is an ability to be three feet, they will act accordingly.

They have clearly noted those data. They are, in fact, doing studies themselves. And when the data are just analyzed — and it's going to be soon. I mean, Jake, you're asking the right questions. And the CDC is very well aware that data are accumulating making it look more like three feet are OK under certain circumstances. They're analyzing that.

And I can assure you, within a reasonable period of time, quite reasonable, they will be giving guidelines according to the data that they have. It won't be very long, I promise you.  

I can tell you and promise you, I talk to the CDC, to Dr. Walensky every single day. She is acutely aware of the accumulation of data and the fact that her team will be acting on the data the way they always do. So, stay tuned. It's going to come, and it's going to come soon."

Is this reassuring from a man who has admitted that the health care community and government was lying to Americans about the pandemic?

Here is the lead page of the study as it appears on the Clinical Infectious Diseases website:

The study looked at 537,336 students between kindergarten and grade 12 and 99,390 staff in 251 eligible public school districts in Massachusetts  who attended in-person instruction during the 16 week period from September 24, 2020 to January 27, 2021.  This represented 6,400,175 student learning weeks and 1,342,574 staff learning weeks.  Case counts for staff and students include those who had a laboratory-confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 infection and were in a school building within seven days prior to the positive test.

School districts in Massachusetts were allowed to put in place their own infection control plans with some districts permitting a minimum physical distancing of 3 feet and others allowing physical distancing of 6 feet as follows:

"Districts that permitted a minimum of ≥3 feet of distancing, even if greater distances were "preferred," were classified as allowing ≥3 feet of distancing between students. Similarly, districts that allowed ≥3 feet of distancing for some grades, even if not for all, were classified as permitting ≥3 feet of distancing. Districts that implemented intermediate distancing requirements (e.g., minimum of 4 feet, 4.5 feet, 5 feet) were excluded from the primary analysis. Districts that allowed ≥3 feet of physical distancing in their full re-opening plan but opened in a hybrid learning model with requirements of ≥6 feet in the hybrid model, were classified as requiring ≥6 feet of physical distancing. Districts with contradictory recommendations (e.g., statements of permitting 3-6 feet in some sections of the infection control plan but requiring 6 feet in others) were excluded."

The authors also noted that other interventions other than masking that were implemented included cohosting of students, enhanced disinfection protocols and variable ventilation interventions.

Here is what the researchers found:

"Districts that implemented ≥3 feet of distancing between students reported 895 cases among students and 431 cases among staff (Figure 1). Districts with ≥6 feet of physical distancing reported 3223 cases among students and 2382 among staff, (unadjusted incidence rate ratio (IRR, 0.891, 95% CI, 0.594-1.335). Incident cases among both students and staff were highly correlated with community rates (Figure 2). In multivariable regression models controlling for community incidence, the risk of COVID-19 among students in districts with ≥3 versus ≥6 feet of distancing was similar (adjusted IRR, 0.904, 95% CI, 0.616-1.325) (Table 3). The model for staff controlling for community incidence also showed a similar risk with ≥3 versus ≥6 feet of distancing…"

Here is the conclusion of the study

"Our finding of no significant difference in student or staff case rates between schools with ≥3 versus ≥6 feet of distancing with a large sample size suggests that the lower physical distancing recommendation can be adopted in school settings without negatively impacting safety.

These findings have important implications for national policy for SARS-CoV-2 infection control recommendations applied to school settings. The practical implication of a 6 feet of distancing recommendation is that many schools are unable to open for full-in person learning, or at all, due to physical limitations of school infrastructure. This is particularly true in public school districts, which are unable to limit the number of students enrolled, compared to private schools, which have been able to more successfully open with 6 feet of distance between individuals. Three-feet of physical distancing is more easily achieved in most school districts, including public ones, and thus, relaxing distancing requirements would likely have the impact of increasing the number of students who are able to benefit from additional in-person learning. Our data also suggest that intermediate distances (4 or 5 feet) can also be adopted without negatively impacting safety; adoption of intermediate distancing policies might be leveraged as a step-wise approach to return more students to the classroom."

Just in case you were curious, different nations have different physical distancing requirements as shown here:

1.) Australia – 

 

2.) United States – 

3.) United Kingdom – 

4.) World Health Organization:

Let's summarize.  Let's start with the understanding that I do realize that new research on viruses will result in new recommendations, however, in this case, while it's not terribly surprising that Dr. Fauci appears to have changed his mind once again, it is becoming increasingly clear that public health officials around the world have been using a random number generator when it comes to health policies around preventing the spread of COVID-19 including physical distancing and social distancing and the number of people allowed to meet together for weddings and funerals.  Using a 3 foot or 1 metre physical distancing rule rather than a 6 foot or 2 metre physical distancing rule will certainly change our lives for the better, eliminating the need for those ubiquitous adhesive floor decals and signage that has been used for the past year to "herd the sheep" and allowing all children to return to school.

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