COVID-19 case numbers are surging in Mass. public schools

Editor's Note: The charts contained in this story will be updated weekly on Thursdays.

Massachusetts is experiencing another winter surge in new cases of COVID-19, and its classrooms are no exception.

In the past week, public school districts reported 6,817 new coronavirus cases among students and 1,012 among staff to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Those 7,812 cases would be a record high — by a wide margin — if not for the prior report published on Dec. 2, which captured two weeks of data owing to the Thanksgiving holiday.

In the past week, Boston, the state’s largest school district, reported 272 new cases among students and 59 among staff. Four other large and low-income districts — Springfield, New Bedford, Lawrence and Methuen — each reported over 100 cases last week.

Colleen Quinn, a spokesperson for the state’s Executive Office of Education, stressed that “severe illness among school-aged children remains exceedingly rare.” Hospitalizations are up for residents age 0-11 since mid-November, but are nevertheless unusual: at a rate of around 1 per 50,000 children, according to state data.

Quinn also touted the state’s “robust” multi-pronged approach to testing, saying the weekly positivity rate remains around 1% and that "test-and-stay" programs have saved over 200,000 total hours of learning time from disruptive quarantines.

Some parents and public health experts have found fault with the opt-in approach to that testing regime, saying it risks missing school-based outbreaks as they occur.

This school year, with in-person schooling mandatory, the state has seen a great deal more coronavirus in schools. A total of 35,518 cases have been reported among public school students since September — roughly 4% of the state’s total enrollment — and 5,478 cases among staff.

Max Larkin Reporter, Education
Max Larkin is an education reporter.



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