NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Students and staff members returning to Northampton Public Schools are encouraged to wear masks.

Students and staff are encouraged to wear masks for nine days due to the rise in COVID-19 and flu cases. The interim Superintendent said in a letter to the school community that the temporary measure will last from Tuesday until the 13th of January.

The most recent data from Northampton’s COVID-19 dashboard shows cases and hospitalization were up between the 11th and 17th of December. The data was posted by the city’s department of health human services on December 22nd, which was when Hampshire County was labeled as medium risk for COVID by the CDC. However, the CDC dropped the COVID risk level to low last Thursday.

Superintendent Jannell Pearson-Campbell said they made their recommendation in consultation with the director of the city’s Department of Health and Human Services.

“People come back from vacation we just want to move in because like for example one of our buildings seven staff are out sick and that means we don’t have full coverage so we’re just trying to keep having enough staffing,” said Pearson-Campbell.

The area is dealing with an early flu season and the emergence of RSV.