Mass. Schools Report 1,420 New COVID-19 Cases Among Students, Staff

It's the first coronavirus report released by the state this school year

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Massachusetts schools reported 1,420 positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff this week, according to state education officials.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the numbers Thursday in its weekly COVID-19 report, the first of the 2021-22 school year. A total of 1,230 students and 190 employees tested positive between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15.

In future weeks, the report will cover a weekly 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 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.

DESE said the 1,230 student cases represent 0.13% of the estimated 920,000 students enrolled in K-12 schools. The 190 cases among around 140,000 staff members work out to a similar percentage, 0.14%.

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. Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley has mandated universal mask-wearing in schools until at least Oct. 1.

Springfield reported the most student cases, with 70, followed by Wachusett's 40. Of the 400 districts, 160 reported no COVID-19 cases in students. Boston, Worcester and Springfield logged the highest number of staff cases, with eight each.

Gov. Charlie Baker said last week he is not considering a return to remote learning as an option for school districts despite the current spike in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts.

"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 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.

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