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State eases recommended COVID precautions in K-12 schools

Massachusetts school districts were told Monday they should focus their COVID-19 mitigation strategies toward vulnerable and symptomatic individuals this coming school year instead of deploying universal masking requirements or surveillance testing of asymptomatic students and staff.

Education Commissioner Jeff Riley and Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke distributed a memo Monday telling districts that the state "is not recommending universal mask requirements, surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals, contact tracing, or test-to-stay testing in schools" and reminding them that there are no statewide testing or masking requirements, although masks will still be required in school nurses' offices.

"With COVID-19 vaccines now readily available, treatments accessible to those at higher risk for severe disease, and widespread availability of self-tests, DESE and DPH have continued to evolve our support for schools in collaboration with the medical community and in line with the most recent CDC guidance issued August 11, 2022," the commissioners wrote.

They also detailed plans for free vaccine clinics in August and September aimed specifically at students, teachers, staffers and family members.

Riley said Monday that he is "looking forward to the school year getting back to as close as pre-pandemic norms as possible."

"We are hoping that our students can continue to be fully engaged in school extracurricular activities and interactions amongst their peers and teachers. I'm sure we're all hoping for a easier year than last year," he said at Monday's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting.

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