COVID-19 cases in Mass. schools up sharply 

No sign of clustered outbreaks  

STATE EDUCATION OFFICIALS reported a 41 percent increase in coronavirus cases identified in Massachusetts schools from October 22 to October 28 compared to the previous 7-day period  

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reported 286 new coronavirus cases in schools over the recent 7-day reporting period, up from 202 during the  week of October 15 to 22. Of the new cases, 201 were diagnosed in students and 85 among school staff members 

The new numbers were released amid growing concern about a resurgence of the virus statewide. The number of cases in schools is still very small as a percentage of the population, with roughly 450,000 K-12 students back in Massachusetts school buildings for at least part of the week. There are roughly 75,000 school staff members.  

According to state reports, there have been 908 coronavirus cases reported in schools over the past six weeks. 

The school data only include students learning in fully in-person settings or under hybrid models that have students at school buildings for part of the week. The reported infections among school staff also only reflect employees who were in school buildings at some point during the seven days prior to their diagnosis, not those working fully remotely 

About 70 percent of school districts are operating with in-person or hybrid models. 

A total of 92 districts reported student cases. Beverly saw the most, with eight testing positive. Braintree reported seven cases, Haverhill had six, and Abington, Agawam, Holliston each had five. Other districts reported four cases or less.  

New Bedford had the greatest number of total cases, with five students and four district staff testing positive.  

Boston went completely remote on October 22 due to a significant increase in community rates, so students there were not counted in the most recent tally. The district reported two new cases among staff.   

Of the 201 new student cases, two were in special education schools — the Guild for Human Services School in Concord and the May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Wilmington. Eight staff members at other special education schools tested positive. There were also two cases among students at education collaboratives, one at C.A.S.E. Concord Area SPED Collaborative and one at SEEM Collaborative.  

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Despite the increase of cases, no significant outbreaks have been reported in Massachusetts schools, something state education commissioner Jeff Riley and Secretary of Education James Peyser emphasized at a legislative oversight hearing on Tuesday. They urged schools to consider remaining open for in-person learning even in communities falling in the “red” zone on the state’s color-coded map charting COVID-19 cases.

Riley said the department is concerned about two school districts that are or were fully remote despite low transmission rates. He said he plans to “audit them and see what’s happening.” Watertown and East Longmeadow are being audited by the state for having been or being fully remote despite low community rates. Watertown began transitioning this week to hybrid learning.