For the fifth consecutive week, public schools in Massachusetts reported fewer new COVID cases among both students and staff, with 3,251 cases among students and 670 among staff for the week that ended Wednesday.
The 3,921 total cases were 2,802 fewer, or about 42 percent fewer, than those reported last week, according to data published by the state.
There are about 920,000 students and 140,000 staff members are learning and working in-person in schools across the state, and about 0.35 percent of students and 0.48 percent of staff members reported positive COVID cases to their districts from Feb. 10 to Feb. 16.
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 data in schools also do not distinguish this.
Last year, about 1,000 schools participated in COVID testing programs while remote learning was still counted as regular school time, compared to more than 2,200 that have signed up to participate this academic year. For the one-week period that ended Sunday, 1,821 schools reported testing data.
From the pooled test program, 44,875 pools were processed with a pool positivity rate of 2 percent from the week that ended Sunday.
Many schools are phasing out the test-and-stay program and instead are 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 at the end of January. Families are supposed to report positive cases based on those tests to school districts, which in turn will report them to the state.
Among schools still participating in test-and-stay, 6,117 tests were conducted, 6,759 fewer than last week, and 6,008 tests came back negative during the week that ended Sunday.
Boston, Worcester, and Springfield reported the highest number of COVID cases in the state for the week ending Wednesday, with 101 students and 31 staff testing positive at Boston Public Schools; 73 students and 22 staff testing positive at Worcester Public Schools; and 72 students and 36 staff testing positive at Springfield Public Schools.
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 26 cluster from Jan. 16 to Feb. 12.
The state 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. 30 to Feb. 12, the state reported 2,760 cases among children from birth to age 4, 2,998 cases among kids ages 5 to 9, 2,558 cases among kids ages 10 to 14, and 4,008 cases among teenagers ages 15 to 19.
Among people under age 20, and among all age groups, kids ages 15 to 19 had the highest rate of COVID-19 infection for the two-week period: 867.7 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. 30 to Feb. 12, 80 people under age 20 in Massachusetts were hospitalized, and no one in that age group died.
Colleen Cronin can be reached at email@example.com.