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Mass. reports 7,223 new coronavirus cases among public school students and 1,153 among staff

At the Eliot K-8 Innovation School, eight-year-old Fiona Geraghty, cq, received her second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from RN Darren Maggio.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

State education leaders on Thursday reported 7,223 new cases among public school students and 1,153 among staff members for the week that ended Wednesday.

The 8,376 total cases were 392 more than those reported last week, showing about a five percent increase in cases overall.

About 920,000 students across the state are attending school in person, and about 140,000 staff members are inside school buildings. From Dec. 9 to Dec. 15, about 0.79 percent of students and 0.82 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 2,087 have reported testing data for the one-week period that ended Sunday.

For the week that ended Sunday, 29,961 pooled tests were processed, with a pool positivity rate of 2.69 percent. In the test-and-stay program, which tests students and staff who were close contacts of people who tested positive for the virus, 74,992 tests were conducted, and 74,243 tests came back negative.

For the week ending Wednesday, the districts that reported the highest number of cases were Boston Public Schools, which reported 224 cases among students and 47 among staff; Springfield Public Schools, which reported 240 cases among students and 26 among staff; and Worcester Public Schools, which reported 219 cases among students and 37 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 Nov. 14 to Dec. 11, there were 111 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 Nov. 28 to Dec. 11, the state reported 3,845 cases among children from birth to age 4, 6,100 cases among kids ages 5 to 9, 5,941 cases among kids ages 10 to 14, and 4,693 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: 1,651.1 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 Nov. 28 to Dec. 11, 39 people under age 20 in Massachusetts were hospitalized, and no one in that age group died.

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Colleen Cronin can be reached at colleen.cronin@globe.com.