NAfME Response to New CDC Guidelines for K-12 Schools

On March 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidelines for their “Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools.” While the lead headline from the updated guidelines was the opportunity to reduce physical or social distancing to three feet from six feet for seated classroom environments, in elementary schools and most middle and high schools, the guidelines included updates that also impact music-making classrooms. The guidelines recommend that schools:

  1. Maintain 6 feet of distance…during activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band, or sports and exercise. Move these activities outdoors or to large, well-ventilated space, when possible.
  2. Consistently adhere to universal masking of all students and educators.

In addition, the guidelines remove the recommendation for the use of physical barriers in classrooms.

NAfME is excited to see band and singing recognized as part of the school day by their inclusion in this update to the K-12 school guidance. We appreciate that the CDC acknowledged the differences between typical classroom settings and activities such as music-making.

NAfME is a member in the international coalition of performing arts organizations supporting the performing arts aerosol study with researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the University of Maryland, College Park. Following the release of the updated guidelines from the CDC on March 19, the research study released this update. The update includes the following recommendations to mitigate the spread of aerosols in the performing arts classroom:

  1. Bell covers should be used for all woodwinds and brass and should be made with a multi-layer cover with the center layer being made of MERV-13 filter material, or a 3-layer surgical style mask using an ASTM F2100 or GB/T32610 standard.
  2. Singers and instrumentalists should wear a well-fitted 3-layer surgical-style mask that meets the ASTM F2100 or GB/T32610 standard to reduce aerosol emission. Instrumental players may have a slit in their mask to allow the insertion of their mouthpiece. The slitted mask does not replace the instrumentalist’s usual mask and is only used when actively playing their instrument.
  3. Performing arts activities should happen on a reduced schedule:
  • Indoors – 30-minute restriction followed by a minimum of one (1) air exchange
  • Outdoors – 60-minute restriction followed by a five (5) minute break (NEW 3/19/21)
  1. Practice good hygiene by washing hands, using sanitizers, and preventing uncontrolled spit valve release.
  2. Rehearsal space recommendations in order of preference:
  • Outdoor rehearsals, using individual mitigation techniques described above.
  • Indoors with elevated outdoor air exchange rate from HVAC.
  • Indoors with typical outdoor air exchange rate from HVAC plus recirculation air through MERV 13 filters or addition of appropriately sized HEPA air cleaners.
  • Indoors with outdoor air exchange rate from open windows supplemented with appropriately sized HEPA air cleaners when airflow is reduced under certain outdoor wind conditions.

NAfME will continue to work with the international coalition to make certain that accurate and up-to-date recommendations are available to the field regarding ways to mitigate the risk of aerosols in performing arts classrooms. Additional ideas and suggestions for music educators can be found in the Fall 2020 Guidance issued in collaboration with the National Federation of State High School Associations.

NAfME Public Policy Staff, March 30, 2020. © National Association for Music Education (