The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted their physical distancing guidance for K-12 schools across the country on Friday.

The CDC says three feet of distance is generally enough between elementary students in the classroom as long as mask use at their school is universal, regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, substantial, or high.

The same 3-foot guidance applies to middle and high students, but the CDC does recommend that these students maintain a distance of 6 feet in communities where transmission rates are high and cohorting is not possible.

The CDC defines cohorting as groups of students being kept together with the same peers and staff throughout the school day to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 across their school. Experts are concerned that older students are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 and pass it to younger students.

The change reportedly comes after the new research from Oxford academics published earlier this month showed little difference to coronavirus case rates whether students and staff in the elementary, middle, and high schools in the state were spaced 3 feet or 6 feet apart.

But the new 3-foot rule does not apply in every situation

The CDC's new guidelines do not extend to adults and teachers in the schools, who should still maintain 6 feet of distance between one another.

"Several studies have found that transmission between staff is more common than transmission between students and staff, and among students, in schools," the CDC's new guidance reads, citing numerous studies that suggest the same.

More distance is also critical when masks can't be worn (such as in cafeterias where students are eating) and when kids breathe heavily, as they do when singing, playing music, and exercising.

"Move these activities outdoors, or to large, well-ventilated space when possible," the CDC said.

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