Noting that because of the Virgin Islands Government’s effective handling of the COVID-19 situation, where the territory once again has zero reported active cases of the virus, Dr Wheatly said the territory is now able to see light at the end of the tunnel and an opportunity to relax some of the COVID-19 measures.
“We are going to propose to Cabinet to reduce the social distancing in classes from 6 feet to 3 feet,” Dr Wheatley said on the VIP Let’s Talk radio show on ZBVI 780 AM on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on March 19, 2021, that students can safely sit just 3 feet apart in the classroom as long as they wear masks but should be kept the usual 6 feet away from one another at sporting events, assemblies, lunch or chorus practice.
In contrast, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has suggested 1 metre — a little over 3 feet — was sufficient in schools.
According to Dr Wheatley, Government will propose 3 feet as the minimum “and we will propose 3 feet in the classroom, which will allow most if not all of our students to be able to return to the classrooms.”
Due to the social distancing measures, which have made space an issue in schools, there has been a blended approach to learning in the Virgin Islands, where some of the classes are conducted online.
Noting that there are many other COVID-19 protocols that have to be observed in schools, such as mask-wearing, sanitisation, social distancing during break-time, lunch and at the playgrounds, Dr Wheatley said the only way further relaxation of the protocols can come about is if the VI community embraces vaccinations.
Dr Wheatley admitted that he is no fan of vaccination but he has, nevertheless, been vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to the CDC, students can safely sit just 3 feet apart in the classroom as long as they wear masks but 6 feet should still be maintained in common areas, such as school lobbies, and when masks can’t be worn, such as when eating.
Also, students should be kept 6 feet apart in situations where there are a lot of people talking, cheering or singing, all of which can expel droplets containing the coronavirus. That includes chorus practice, assemblies and sports events.
Teachers and other adults should continue to stay 6 feet from one another and from students, the CDC said.
CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said the revised recommendations are an “evidence-based roadmap to help schools reopen safely, and remain open, for in-person instruction.”
“Safe in-person instruction gives our kids access to critical social and mental health services that prepare them for the future, in addition to the education they need to succeed,” she said in a statement.