The New Jersey Department of Health is releasing updated physical-distancing guidance for local health departments on K-12 in-class operations, Gov. Phil Murphy said March 24 during his media briefing.

In touching upon some of the broader points in the revised guidance, Murphy said, “If masking and frequent hand washing can be maintained by students and educators and support staff in a classroom, then full-time, in-person instruction can begin with the distance between students within that classroom reduced to three feet.”

He added, “This updated social-distancing guidance applies to all elementary grade levels across all levels of community transmission risk. It also applies to middle and high school grades at low- and moderate-risk levels. In communities where the rate of transmission is listed by the department as high, six feet to the maximum extent practicable will remain the recommended standard social distance for middle and high schools.”

Six feet of distance “is critical in indoor common areas when masking is not an option, such as when students are eating and drinking in the school cafeteria,” Murphy said.

“Based on available data, in-person learning in schools has not been associated with substantial community transmission [of COVID-19],” said Judy Persichilli, New Jersey’s health commissioner. “Though outbreaks do occur in school settings, multiple studies have shown that transmission within the school setting is typically lower than or at least similar to levels of community transmission when mitigation strategies are in place in the schools.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on March 19 issued new guidance for schools recommending that “with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings.”

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