Schools

Mass. school districts ask students to wear masks amid rising COVID cases

Middlesex County was just classified as having high COVID-19 transmission by the CDC.

Students arrive for school in Boca Raton, Fla. in August, 2021. Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

School district leaders in Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge are urging students to wear masks now that the CDC has classified Middlesex County as having a high rate of COVID-19 transmission, The Boston Globe reported Monday.

The CDC recommends masking indoors in communities that they’ve deemed as having a high rate of COVID-19 transmission.

Arlington’s superintendent, Elizabeth Homan, said in a letter Sunday that 159 COVID-19 cases were reported in the district last week, the Globe reported. As a result, she said, she is urging all students, teachers, and staff to wear masks while inside the schools.

Homan told families that administrators will let families know if the district will extend the recommendation by May 15, the Globe reported.

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“It is important to note that this is a temporary recommendation, not a requirement, and that in addition to this recommendation we will be continuing our monitoring of ventilation, doing additional testing and providing access to home testing where necessary, and emphasizing the importance and use of air purifiers and open windows,” Homan wrote.

“We are making the recommendation in consultation with the Arlington Department of Health and Human Services, and in the interest of meeting our top priority: maintaining adequate staffing levels for safety and supportive learning environments in our schools.”

Masks are already required at Dallin Elementary School, Gibbs Middle School, and Menotomy Preschool in Arlington, according to the Globe.

Belmont Superintendent John Phelan wrote to families in a letter Monday to “consider having your student wear a mask while in school. We are not mandating but simply recommending this added layer of protection,” according to the Globe.

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The newspaper reported that Phelan is also asking students and staff to mask up if they have symptoms, even if they test negative for COVID-19.

“The increase in BPS COVID-19 case numbers is reflective of what is going on in the community and the state,” Phelan wrote.

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“Since the April break we have seen an increase in cases and this is most likely due to the contagiousness of the Omicron variant, as well as increased social gatherings and travel.”

Cambridge Public Schools also noted a rise in COVID-19 cases and COVID-related hospitalizations among people in the school district in its note to parents, the Globe reported.

“We are encouraging our entire school community to mask, particularly when we are indoors,” the note read.

“Please note that we are NOT reinstating a requirement but advising mask use based on current data. We will continue to monitor the trends and make determinations based on the data and in collaboration with the Cambridge Public Health Department.”

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