In the state’s final weekly report of the academic year, local schools and districts in Massachusetts reported 53 new coronavirus cases among students and five among staff members for the week that ended Wednesday — a record low total number of cases.
Cases have declined significantly in recent weeks, even after the number of students attending school in person rose in mid-May when high schools were required to fully reopen in person. 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.
Wednesday was the state’s final day collecting reports of positive coronavirus cases from local school and public health leaders. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education does not plan to collect data from school districts regarding coronavirus cases that crop up in summer programs.
“The Department will continue to support districts in addressing COVID-19-related issues, and school and district leaders can continue to call DESE’s help center,” according to Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley’s weekly update, published on June 7.
Local school districts have been required to report their coronavirus cases to the state education agency since mid-October, though the state began collecting data from districts in late September. Cases only were reported among students who were attending in-person school; cases among students in a fully remote learning model are not being tracked by the state. Cases among staff members only were 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, Worcester Public Schools reported six cases among students and one among staff members, and Lynn Public Schools reported five cases among students.
The final weekly report, released Thursday, includes any cases reported to the state education agency between June 10 and 16. State education officials have not tracked when the cases occurred, only when local schools and districts reported them to the state.
Combined, a total of 14,149 cases among students and 6,237 among staff members were reported to the state since September.
State leaders and medical experts have said in-school transmission of the virus is extremely limited. From May 16 to June 12, there were five 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 11,997 pools from 178 school districts from June 7 to 13, the state education agency reported Thursday; 18 pooled results came back positive. When a pool is positive, all people in that pool are retested individually.