Physical Distancing Guidance

UMBC’s Fall 2021 planning emphasizes physical distancing as a primary safety measure, with three feet being the minimum standard. This page provides some of the scientific and public health guidance that informed this decision. As with all precautions relative to COVID19, UMBC has strived to emphasize the importance of safety of our students, staff, and faculty. Our precautions have used a layered approach that takes into account all factors and data.

Distancing is only one part of UMBC’s safety strategy. For more information, including the most up to date information on the university’s mask policy, visit our Safe On-Campus Behavior page. Other important safety element include high vaccination rates, ventilation, testing, symptom tracking, tracing, and low positivity rates.

Why Three Feet at UMBC?

UMBC’s guidance of three feet in physical distancing for classroom spaces is the result of consideration of a broad range of information. This includes the CDC’s guidelines for K-12 spaces and that provided by the World Health Organization which recommends one meter (equivalent to 3.28 feet).

Why Is Some Guidance Six Feet?

Some conservative workplace and K-12 guidelines using a higher standard of spacing. This guidance is designed for an eight hour day wherein coworkers will be adjacent to one another and not shorter exposure in classes and when faculty can be more than six feet away from students. For K-12 environments, it also relies on the understanding that students are not currently vaccinated, there is very limited testing and limited monitoring or compliance controls. Multiple studies have demonstrated low transmission and outbreaks in K-12 schools, including when using 3 feet as the standard.

UMBC has experienced virtually no instances of transmissions of COVID from in-person classes during the fall and spring semesters. UMBC has in place a strong compliance program and an effective rapid response contact response team. Increasing data has become available as to the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination, showing remarkably low rates of disease acquisition and transmission among those fully vaccinated with FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. This, combined with high levels of vaccination in the community, greatly reduces the risk of COVID-19 spread in a classroom via airborne, droplet, and contact transmission mechanisms. The CDC reports, among 95 million vaccinated people, an infection rate of < 0.01%.