COVID case, chaos rising as MA returns to school and work

SALEM, MA – The omicron-fueled push that led to a record number of cases in Massachusetts and the rest of the country showed no signs of slowing down on Monday as Bay State residents returned to work and to school for the first weekday of the new year.

As of noon as of Monday, 120 flights to and from Boston’s Logan International Airport had been canceled in the past 24 hours. Dozens of school districts delayed opening or canceled classes altogether on Monday to allow for Covid testing of teachers and staff while others were understaffed as teachers – including 150 in Boston – became ill. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said some city workers will be working remotely for the next two weeks in an effort to slow the surge.

But, speaking at Saltonstall School in Salem early Monday morning, Gov. Charlie Baker signaled that the state has no plans to order schools to switch to distance or hybrid learning.

“The rules here are pretty straightforward: we count the school in person as the school,” Baker said. Schools “must provide their children with 180 days of in-person education this year. And we will do all we can to help them achieve that.”

Latest news on the Covid outbreak in Massachusetts:

  • The UMass Memorial test site was among the Massachusetts test sites that said it will increase hours and days of operation due to the current surge.
  • The Beverly Board of Health will attempt to discuss and vote on a mask mandate again after last week’s virtual meeting was passed by more than 300 attendees and had to be put on hold.
  • Flight cancellations continued in the United States and Boston as airlines rushed to staff flights.

At the end of last week, the Baker administration rejected an appeal by the Massachusetts Teachers Association to cancel the statewide school on Monday after a delay in shipping 200,000 rapid Covid tests that were distributed to teachers and staff before the reopening of schools after the winter break. Somerville and several other districts delayed the school’s opening by two hours on Monday to allow time for testing. Monday and Tuesday were early release days in Arlington, where authorities are urging students not to reunite with their friends after school. Some neighborhoods, like Burlington, were closed Monday.

“The most important thing we want to stress for our students and families is the need for our students to be in person,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who spoke with Baker at the conference. Monday press release. “Someone described the virtual school as an underwater basketball game, and I think that really sums it up.”

Without state intervention, school districts have had to adapt their policies and inform parents of changes in schools. Hopkinton High School, the first public school in Massachusetts to lift the mandate in October, reinstated politics just before the recess. Andover and other school districts sent notes to parents on Sunday warning them of bus delays due to driver shortages. Other school districts have issued notices saying they will follow new CDC guidelines reducing isolation protocols.

Also on Patch: Pfizer Boosters for Kids 12-15: What MA Parents Need to Know

Baker last month issued an advisory on the masks, but did not seek a statewide warrant. Several local governments are now preparing to implement local mask mandates, which require face covering in any public space, including businesses. The Beverly Board of Health will attempt to discuss and vote on a mask mandate again on Wednesday after last week’s virtual meeting was passed by more than 300 attendees and had to be put on hold.

State officials are bracing for darker numbers when the Department of Public Health releases daily Covid data later Monday afternoon. The state broke a record with 21,397 new cases on Friday. Friday’s report also reported 148 additional coronavirus deaths and 1,954 hospitalizations.

Maria D. Ervin