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In a reversal, Mass. will report weekly coronavirus cases in public schools

A group of students lined up to enter the Hill School in Revere for the first day of school on Aug. 25.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

As thousands of unvaccinated public school students return to Massachusetts classrooms, state education leaders have reversed their decision to suspend the weekly coronavirus case reports that had been released during the 2020-21 academic year.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will once again ask school districts to report positive coronavirus cases to the state, starting the week of Sept. 13, according to Colleen Quinn, a spokeswoman for Executive Office of Education.

“This data will give the commissioner more information to assess conditions at schools,” Quinn wrote in an e-mail to the Globe on Wednesday.

It’s not yet clear when the weekly reports will be released, but the department previously released them on Thursdays at 5 p.m. during the 2020-21 year.


The reports only included positive cases of students and staff members who had been in school district buildings within seven days of testing positive for the coronavirus. Students and staff who were learning or teaching in fully remote models were not being tracked by the state education agency.

Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley has said he will use a variety of public health data — including but not limited to vaccination rates — to determine how long the state’s mask mandate for all students and staff members will remain in place. Currently, the mandate is set to lift on Oct. 1 for vaccinated people in schools that have at least 80 percent of their student and staff population vaccinated.

However, Riley told state education board members last month he has not ruled out the possibility of having to require masks intermittently throughout the year, based on evolving data.

Riley and other state leaders had faced some pressure in recent weeks to bring back the weekly coronavirus reports. In a letter to Governor Charlie Baker in mid-August, Representative Ayanna Pressley urged his administration to bring back the reports.


“Your decision to stop reporting all of the necessary data at the exact same time the delta variant began infecting residents was misguided and must be reversed,” she wrote.