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Boston health officials recommend threshold for repealing school mask mandates

A sign reminding students to wear face masks and follow a set directional pattern are seen in the stairway of a Boston high school in February 2021. (Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A sign reminding students to wear face masks and follow a set directional pattern are seen in the stairway of a Boston high school in February 2021. (Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Public health officials in Boston have established a threshold for how and when they'll recommend rescinding mask mandates in schools.

Boston Public Health Commission's Infectious Disease Bureau recommends that Boston Public Schools wait until the citywide COVID-19 incidence rate reaches 10 cases per 100,000 residents to institute mask-optional policies, bureau director Dr. Sarimer Sanchez announced Wednesday.

Boston is not there yet. As of March 9, the incidence rate was 13 cases per 100,000 residents.

"We are headed in that direction," Sanchez said. "We hope to be there soon but we're not there yet."

At 10 cases per 100,000 residents, Boston schools could meet its goal of preventing additional hospitalizations and infection clusters inside its buildings, according to Sanchez. That's in line with the CDC's current COVID-19 modeling, she said.

Officially, the decision to rescind Boston Public Schools mask mandate will be made by district leaders. Sanchez said she will be in close communication with school officials as they make the call.

"Really, this number is a guide" Sanchez said, adding that the commission is currently working with school officials to formulate plans for how students should mask back up if COVID-19 cases surge again. The commission is also working with schools on creating mask-friendly environments and to improve pediatric vaccination rates among Boston students.

Boston Public Schools has not yet indicated how they'll respond to the commission's guidance or set an official date for when they'll rescind the district's mask mandate.

Dozens of other public school districts in Massachusetts have already rolled out mask-optional policies. Most made the switch as soon as the state's school mask mandate expired at the end of February. Some waited until the beginning of this week and several others are planning to go mask-optional next week.

Related:

Carrie Jung Twitter Senior Reporter, Edify
Carrie is a senior education reporter with Edify.

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