The number of new COVID-19 cases identified in Massachusetts schools has continued to rise in the last week, but not as sharply as a week earlier.
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the numbers Thursday in its weekly COVID-19 report, which covers May 12-18.
In that time period, 14,878 students and 4,090 school employees tested positive for coronavirus, a total of 18,698 cases.
That's an increase of about 7.3% since last week's report, when there were 17,423 school cases. By contrast, that total was a 62.6% increase from the previous week's data.
The cases reported Thursday represent about 1.62% of the student body and 2.92% of workers at Massachusetts schools.
New COVID cases had been on the rise through the holiday season and the omicron surge, but began to decrease after Jan. 13, when 48,414 were reported. Since around the start of March, though, cases have been ticking back up.
Massachusetts' statewide school mask mandate was lifted at the end of February, leaving each district to decide on its own whether facial coverings would be required.
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The total number of positive COVID-19 cases reported by the DESE takes into account school districts (including charter schools), collaboratives, and approved special education schools. The data only represents what has been reported to the state.
The state had stopped publicly reporting the school data in mid-June as school was winding down and cases were dropping. The report on June 16, 2021, included only 53 new cases in students and 5 among school staff.