Schools see sharp spike in COVID-19 cases

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (State House News Service) – A total of 51,100 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in students and staff of Massachusetts schools over the past two weeks, more than two-and-a-half times the number of new infections logged in the previous two-week span.

Figures reported to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and published by the department on Thursday show 38,887 students and 12,213 school staff members contracted COVID-19 from Dec. 23 to Jan. 5, a period that included the holiday break. Past DESE data show that from Dec. 9 through Dec. 22, a total of 15,799 students and 2,697 staff members reported new COVID-19 cases.

Case numbers in Massachusetts have spiked dramatically in recent weeks, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education encouraged school faculty and staff to test themselves before returning to classrooms in January. Some schools closed or opened on delays at the start of this week to facilitate testing of staff or students, and to assess staffing situations amid high numbers of absences.

The 38,887 student cases reported Thursday represent 4.24 percent of the approximately 920,000 students throughout the state, and the 12,213 staff cases represent 8.72 percent of school workers, DESE said. Seven districts reported more than 500 new cases in students:

  • Worcester (801)
  • Springfield (738)
  • Newton (717)
  • Lynn (699)
  • Lowell (562)
  • Boston (555)
  • Quincy (515)

Boston, the state’s largest district, had the highest number of staff positives, with 831, followed by Springfield’s 355, Worcester’s 337, Lynn’s 316 and Brockton’s 268. Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley is planning to announce early next week whether the indoor mask mandate for K-12 schools will remain in place or expire on Jan. 15.

The department’s policy allows schools to lift the mandate for vaccinated individuals, at the discretion of local officials, if they first demonstrate a COVID-19 vaccination rate of at least 80 percent.

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