It’s the news no parent wants to hear right now: COVID-19 case numbers have begun to rise somewhat significantly over the past few weeks in schools across Massachusetts.
Over the past week, Brookline schools have seen a total of 74 COVID cases, a significant rise from the previous week, when there were only 12 positive cases reported.
“It is surprising that it’s going up again,” said Brookline parent Paulomi Neogi, “That’s not good news for parents, yeah, we’re loving being mask-free but going back into masks, it’s not going to be fun.”
Brookline parent Sergio Fagherazzi said, “I think it’s happening the same in Europe and all, there’s another wave, but it’s going to be very small because a lot of people didn’t have it yet.”
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Wellesley has the second highest number of cases over the past week – with 69 students and staff positive for COVID, up from just 18 the week prior.
Unfortunately, these districts are not outliers. Schools across the Commonwealth have seen their COVID counts steadily rising over the past three weeks.
In fact, statewide, there are more than 2,500 students and staff who tested positive over the past week, up from just over 2,000 the previous week. That’s a jump of almost 30% week to week.
But Dr. Katherin Gergen Barnett, Boston Medical Center’s Vice Chair of Family Medicine, says while this is a moment for vigilance, it is absolutely not a moment for panic.
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She says this uptick in cases is not surprising based on wastewater data and the spread of the BA.2 “stealth” subvariant – but we need to make sure we put this data in perspective.
“We’re at a place in the pandemic where we’re going to continue to see ups and downs in terms of the number,” said Dr. Gergen Barnett, “relatively, as we know, from the height of Omicron, we are far, far down in terms of our cases and our hospitalizations.”
It’s also important to note that the test positivity rate in Massachusetts schools remains under one percent.
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the latest numbers Thursday in its weekly COVID-19 report, which covers March 17-23. A total of 2,594 cases were reported in schools in that time, an increase of 572 since the previous week. That’s a jump of almost 30% week to week.
This comes as the BA.2 “stealth” variant is spreading across the country, and a few weeks after most schools lifted most COVID restrictions. COVID cases in schools were on the rise through the holiday season and the omicron surge, but had trended downward after Jan. 13, when 48,414 were reported.
Some schools have had to close due to outbreaks. In Concord, Peabody Middle School were closed for cleaning Friday after an outbreak there.