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Mass. reports 229 new coronavirus cases among public school students, 21 among school staff members

A total of 13,894 cases among students and 6,201 among staff members have been reported to the state since Sept. 24

A classroom at Boston Preparatory Charter School in Boston in August 2020.
A classroom at Boston Preparatory Charter School in Boston in August 2020.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Local schools and districts in Massachusetts reported 21 new coronavirus cases among staff members and 229 among students for the week that ended Wednesday.

The number of cases reported among staff members was at its lowest recorded single-week level yet, down from 30 new cases reported last week, and the number of student cases was at its lowest level since late December and early January, down from 377 reported last week.

The decline comes even as the number of students attending school in person have increased. The state K-12 education agency estimates about 735,000 students across the state are attending some form of in-person learning, and about 140,000 staff members are working in buildings.

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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, Lowell and Methuen public schools each reported 13 cases among students, and Fall River Public Schools reported nine cases among students and two among staff members.

The latest figures, released Thursday, include any cases reported to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education between May 20 and 26. State education officials are not tracking when the cases occur, only when local schools and districts report them to the state.

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

Combined, a total of 13,894 cases among students and 6,201 among staff members have been reported to the state since September.

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Thursday’s report came nearly two weeks after most Massachusetts high schools welcomed students back for full-time, in-person learning, if they had not already. Massachusetts elementary and middle schools returned to traditional classroom learning earlier this spring. All Massachusetts families can keep their children in remote learning through the end of the academic year.

State leaders and medical experts have said in-school transmission of the virus is extremely limited. From April 25 to May 22, there were 17 new clusters identified in K-12 schools, according to weekly data from the state Department of Public Health, also released on Thursday. Clusters do not indicate in-school transmission, however, and officials have said the vast majority of cases among children are spreading outside the classroom at youth sports, family gatherings, and other activities.

The pool testing program, which bundles multiple samples together to test at once, processed 13,332 pools from 176 school districts from May 17 to 23, the state education agency reported Thursday; 48 pooled results came back positive. When a pool is positive, all people in that pool are retested individually.


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