Low Positivity Rate Found in Mass. Schools After Pool Testing, Baker Says

Gov. Charlie Baker says pool testing to date of students and staff members in Massachusetts schools has found a positivity rate of 0.76%

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Pool testing at Massachusetts schools found COVID-19 positivity rates of 0.76%, according to the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker.

The governor's office announced the findings Monday, adding that pool testing would continue to be funded through the end of the school year. State funding was initially set to expire on April 18.

The pool testing program began in February. Since then, the Baker administration says schools have tested nearly 159,000 students and staff members in 22,679 pools that each included an average of seven people. In total, 0.76% tested positive.

"Of the collected pooled tests, Massachusetts is not aware of any in which there was more than one positive individual, suggesting that there is extremely little evidence of in-school transmission of COVID-19 in Massachusetts," the administration said in its press release.

"We are proving there is barely any in-school transmission, any positive case we have seen is coming from the household," said Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn.

State school officials say they hope this data helps those parents on the fence about sending their kids back into the classroom.

"We need to operate from confidence not from fear, and I think that having data like this helps to build our confidence," said Russell Johnston, with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. "This is a data-based decision that we can now make about the safety of our children."

But not everyone is on board.

The head of the Massachusetts Teachers Association says she would like to see more testing before reaching a verdict.

"This is once again the Governor selecting the science and the data to support a narrative which is contrary to what a lot of the general public believes in," said Merrie Najimy, of the MTA.

Baker's office said more than 1,000 schools are involved in the initiative, with more than 329,000 students and staff members eligible to be tested each week.

"Massachusetts' robust and ambitious program offering COVID-19 surveillance testing to all schools, charters, and special education collaboratives led the nation," Baker said in a statement. "The science is clear that it is safe for kids to be in the classrooms, and this initiative has proved to serve as an invaluable tool for schools throughout the Commonwealth as they return to in-person learning."

In Medford, where the testing continues, Lungo-Koehn says she is happy for her city to lead the way on something as important as education.

"It is tough, but is can be done, and it needs to be done, we need to get our students back in school," she said.

Students at Bay State elementary schools that are not among the 58 districts to receive waivers will return to the classroom next Monday.

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