Last week Gov. Charlie Baker announced the state will lift the mask mandate for students and teachers on February 28 but will give power to local school districts on whether or not they decide to lift mask wearing inside the classroom.
“Given the low extremely low risk for young people, the widespread availability and the proven effectiveness of vaccines and the distribution of accurate test protocols and tests, it is time to give our kids a sense of normalcy and lift the mask mandate on a statewide basis for schools,” said Baker at a press conference last week.
Baker added that school districts no longer need to request a waiver from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to remove masks in school buildings where 80% of staff and students are vaccinated.
Following the announcement Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Boston Public Schools will keep mask wearing in place for now until the city’s weekly infection rate drops below 5%; if less than 95% of adult ICU beds are occupied; and if there are less than 200 daily COVID hospitalizations in Boston. Boston is already below one of the metrics, with 91.3% of ICU beds occupied.
Both the citywide weekly positive test rate and Back Bay and surrounding area’s weekly positive test rate decreased last week, which is a good sign that students may be getting close to a maskless school for the first time in over a year.
According to the Boston Public Health Commission 15,795 residents were tested citywide last week and 6.9 percent were COVID positive–this was a 35 percent decrease from the 10.6 percent that reportedly tested positive for the week ending on February 7. The weekly positive test rate has now decreased 66 percent in Boston since January 31.
A month ago nearly 3 out of every 10 Back Bay residents and residents in neighboring communities tested for the virus turned out to be positive but last week only 1.25 out of every 10 residents tested were positive.
According to the weekly report released Monday by the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), 1,369 Back Bay, Beacon Hill, North End, West End and Downtown residents were tested and 4.4 percent were positive. This was a 47 percent decrease from the 8.3 percent that tested positive between January 31 and February 7. The weekly positive test rate has decreased 65 percent in the area overall since February 7.
Sixty additional residents have been infected with the virus between February 7 and February 14 and the total number of cases in the area increased to 8,290 cases overall since the pandemic began.
Citywide positive cases of coronavirus increased 1 percent last week and went from 161,136 cases to 162,683 confirmed cases in a week.
There were 22 additional deaths in Boston from the virus in the past week and the total COVID deaths is now at 1,678. Deaths decreased 31 percent in Boston last week–10 less than the 32 deaths reported by the BPHC two weeks ago.