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Mass. reports 10,068 new coronavirus cases among public school students and 1,918 among staff

Students leave Boston Latin Academy at the end of the school day.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

The number of reported COVID cases in Massachusetts public schools has nearly halved from the last reporting period, with 10,068 new cases reported among students and 1,918 among staff for the week that ended Wednesday.

The 11,986 total cases were 9,700 fewer, or down about 45 percent, than those reported last week, according to data published by the state.

There are about 920,000 students and 140,000 staff members learning and working in-person in public schools across the state, and about 1.09 percent of students and 1.37 percent of staff members reported positive COVID cases to their districts from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2.

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Massachusetts requires districts to report positive cases among students and staff whether or not they had been in a school building since their last positive test, and state reports on COVID in schools do not distinguish this in its data.

Last year, about 1,000 schools participated in COVID testing programs while remote learning was still counted towards 180-day schedule, and now more than 2,200 have signed up to participate this academic year. For the one-week period that ended Sunday, 2,092 schools reported testing data.

From the pooled test program, 51,137 pools were processed with a positivity rate of 5.3 percent between Jan. 24 and Jan 30.

Some schools are beginning to phase out the test-and-stay program, which tests close contacts of students and staff who test positive for the coronavirus, and are instead offering weekly rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to staffers and students as a part of a new state initiative. Tests for the new program began arriving to schools last week. Families are supposed to report positive cases based on those tests to school districts, which in turn will report them to the state to include in its weekly report.

Among schools still participating in test-and-stay, 35,224 tests were conducted, about 1,800 fewer than last week, and 34,517 tests came back negative.

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Boston, Worcester, and Springfield public school districts reported the highest number of COVID cases in the state for the week ending Wednesday, with 321 students and 97 staff testing positive in Boston; 309 students and 65 staff testing positive in Worcester; and 265 students and 70 staff testing positive in Springfield.

The number of cases reported at school does not necessarily indicate in-school transmission or COVID clusters, which are two or more cases attributed to the same exposure, according to the state. Department of Public Health. In all public and private K through 12 grade schools in Massachusetts, there were 54 cluster from Jan. 2 to Jan. 29.

The state generally tracts the number and rate of COVID cases among different age groups, including among the school aged population. During the two-week period from Jan. 16 to Jan. 29, the state reported 8,133 cases among children from birth to age 4, 9,380 cases among kids ages 5 to 9, 9,192 cases among kids ages 10 to 14, and 9,825 cases among teenagers ages 15 to 19.

Among people under age 20, and among all age groups, kids ages 5 to 9 had the highest rate of COVID-19 infection for the two-week period: 2,538.9 people per 100,000.

Though severe COVID infections among children are relatively uncommon according experts, many children remain unvaccinated and some children have been hospitalized and died from COVID in Massachusetts since the pandemic began. From Jan. 16 to Jan. 29, 149 people under age 20 were hospitalized, and 1 person in that age group died.

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