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Mass. reports highest weekly coronavirus case count in public schools all academic year: 801 student cases, 244 among staff

A total of 9,478 cases among students and 5,602 among staff members have been reported to the state since Sept. 24

Teachers and students walked to the entrance of the Mattahunt Elementary school in Mattapan in December 2020.
Teachers and students walked to the entrance of the Mattahunt Elementary school in Mattapan in December 2020.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Local school officials in Massachusetts reported to the state 801 new coronavirus cases among students and 244 among school staff members for the week that ended Wednesday.

The combined total of new cases — 1,045 — was the highest weekly total since the start of the academic year. The number of student cases reported in a single week was also the highest so far.

Officials estimate that about 575,000 students across the state are attending some form of in-person learning, and about 85,000 staff members are working in buildings — up from an estimated 450,000 students and 75,000 staff members from most of the year.

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Cases are only reported among students who are attending in-person school; cases among students in a fully remote learning model are not being tracked by the state. Cases among staff members are only being reported if the employee was inside a school building within the seven days prior to the reported case.

Among the highest number of cases reported in a single school or district for the week ending Wednesday, Barnstable Public Schools reported 23 cases among students and 12 among staff members, Boston Public Schools reported 12 cases among students and 13 among staff members, and Quincy Public Schools reported 22 student cases.

The latest figures, released Thursday, include any cases reported to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education between March 25 and 31. State education officials are not tracking when the cases occur, only when local school officials report them to the state.

Starting the week that ended Oct. 21, local school districts are required to report their coronavirus cases to state education officials. The first three reports released by the state did not require districts to report their cases.

Combined, a total of 9,478 cases among students and 5,602 among staff members have been reported to the state.

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Thursday’s report came just days before all elementary schools in Massachusetts will be mandated to have students return for full-time, in-person learning, unless the district has received approval from the state to delay their return. All families will still have the option to choose remote learning through the end of the academic year.

Schools have not appeared to be superspreading locations for the coronavirus, state leaders have repeatedly said, though occasional cases of suspected in-school transmission has cropped up. This week, Tyngsborough Elementary School was in a fully remote model after a cluster of positive cases that superintendent Michael Flanagan said was suspected in-school transmission.


Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.