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Mass. reports 1,804 new coronavirus cases among public school students and 350 among staff

Students lined up to go into their classroom at the Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter Public School in August.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

State education leaders on Thursday reported 1,804 new cases among public school students and 350 among staff members for the week that ended Wednesday.

The 2,154 total cases were 84 fewer than those reported last week.

About 920,000 students across the state are attending school in person, and about 140,000 staff members are inside school buildings. From Oct. 14 to 20, about 0.2 percent of students and 0.25 percent of staff members reported positive cases of the coronavirus to their school leaders.

Weekly reports of coronavirus cases from schools have been higher the past several weeks than at any time last year, but the increase was expected. Significantly more students are attending school in person, and more than double the number of schools have signed up to participate in COVID-19 testing services provided by the state.

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Just about 1,000 schools participated last year, compared to more than 2,200 that have signed up to participate this year. It’s not clear how many schools are actively participating in testing programs, but 1,788 have reported testing data so far.

The state on Thursday also reported the results of COVID-19 testing in 1,410 schools. For the week that ended Sunday, 20,665 pooled tests were processed, with a pool positivity rate of 0.91 percent. In the test-and-stay program, which tests students and staff who were close contacts of people who tested positive for the virus, 11,369 tests were conducted, and 11,242 tests came back negative.

For the week ending Wednesday, the districts that reported the highest number of cases were Worcester Public Schools, which reported 61 cases among students and 13 among staff; Springfield Public Schools, which reported 46 cases among students and 12 among staff; and New Bedford Public Schools, which reported 49 cases among students and three among staff.

Massachusetts school districts are required to report positive cases among students and employees to the state, though the reports do not indicate how many of the people had been inside school buildings. Local school leaders are asked to report any cases among enrolled students or employed staff members, regardless of whether they had been at school since their positive test.

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Reported cases among students and staff also are not an indication that in-school transmission has occurred, or that there was a cluster of cases, which is defined by the state Department of Public Health as two or more confirmed Massachusetts cases with a common exposure. From Sept. 19 to Oct. 16, there were 44 clusters in Massachusetts public, private, special education, and boarding schools.

The cases reported from school leaders are among those reported by the state public health agency every day. During the two-week period from Oct. 3 to 16, the state reported 939 cases among children from birth to age 4, 1,753 cases among kids ages 5 to 9, 1,861 cases among kids ages 10 to 14, and 1,190 cases among teenagers ages 15 to 19.

Among people under age 20, kids ages 5 to 9 had the highest rate of COVID-19 infection for the two-week period: 474.5 people per 100,000.

Experts also have repeatedly emphasized that while many children remain unvaccinated, COVID-19 does not cause severe illness for most children that contract it. From Oct. 3 to 16, 13 people under age 20 in Massachusetts were hospitalized, and one person in that age group died.

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