A total of 2,399 students and staff members at Massachusetts schools tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week, a decrease of more than 200 since a week earlier.
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the numbers Thursday in its weekly COVID-19 report, the third of the 2021-22 school year. A total of 2,054 students and 345 employees tested positive between Sept. 23 and Sept. 29. The weekly report covers a timeframe of Thursday to Wednesday.
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 student cases represent 0.22% of the estimated 920,000 students enrolled in K-12 schools, a decrease from 0.24% the previous week. DESE said 0.25% of the roughly 140,000 staff members have COVID-19, an increase from 0.23% last week, when 2,236 students and 318 employees tested positive.
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The state had stopped publicly reporting the school data in mid-June as school was winding down and cases were dropping. The June 16 report included only 53 new cases in students and 5 among school staff.
After a 2019-2020 school year marked by periods of remote instruction, districts across Massachusetts are now back to full-time in-person learning.
Teachers and students age 12 and up are able to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but there's still no clear timeline on when younger kids will be eligible for vaccines. Massachusetts' school mask mandate was extended this week until at least Nov. 1, with Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley saying schools can apply to lift their mandates if 80% of students and staff are vaccinated.
"Schools have a certain number of days baked into their calendar that they are allowed to miss and I think our view at this point is in-person learning is where we should be and where we should stay, and anybody who isn't vaccinated who's eligible should get vaccinated and take advantage of these clinics we've put up," he said.
His comment came after Melrose schools were forced to quarantine multiple classrooms due to a coronavirus outbreak.
School officials there did not say how many students or staff had tested positive, if they were vaccinated, or specify the grade level of the classrooms that were put into quarantine.
State House News Service contributed to this report.