BOSTON (WWLP) – While it may feel like the pandemic is behind us, health officials are saying precautions are still necessary.

With mask mandates gone and test rates dropping, life feels like it’s headed back to normal. However, with the start of the school year approaching, health officials are raising concerns. A group of public health experts, labor leaders and community organizers met on Monday to discuss COVID prevention for fall.

In the week ending on August 18th, Massachusetts recorded 8,224 COVID-19 cases and a seven day hospitalization average of 569 patients, which is higher than what was seen during the same week in 2021 and 2020.

The coalition that gathered called on employers, school leaders and government officials to make plans before the end of summer. They differed from the CDC’s guidance and urged the state to require those who contract COVID-19 to isolate for 10 days or until they test negative. They also called on business leaders, politicians and public health leaders to implement masking options for all.

“We all want our society and schools open, we all want this pandemic to be over, but wishing it won’t make it so, and pretending that we’re doing all that needs to be done for the fall and winter seasons and what they may portend isn’t acceptable on any level,” said Katie Murphy, President of Massachusetts Nurse Association.

Just last week, Massachusetts school districts were told that the state was not recommending masking, surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals, contract tracing or testing-to-stay in schools. Speakers at Monday’s event believed this was the wrong approach, with one speaker saying the school year should begin with testing and mask wearing and another suggesting schools should host vaccine clinics.

The latest information that was released showed a 7.84% positivity rate.