Covid Update: 11 cases in isolation; NSBORO mask and quarantine protocols for coming school year

by beth on August 23, 2021

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As of today, the Southborough Board of Health is showing 11 residents in isolation for active cases of Covid-19. The total cases over the course of the pandemic is now 547. That’s 8 cases reported in 7 days and 14 in two weeks. (For details, see graphs below.)

Aug 23 - tracking Covid in Southborough Aug 23 - Cumulative total Covid in Southborough Aug 23 - Confirmed per Day in Southborough over 14 days Aug 23 - Covid by ages in Southborough Aug 23 - Covid by ages in Southborough over time

ARHS students resume in person athletics tryouts and practices this week, and all Algonquin students prepare to return to the regional school next week. So, you may be interested in Northborough’s status.

In the state report that came out last Thursday night, 25 cases were reported in Northborough in two weeks. That’s a Average Daily Incidence Rate per 100,000 of 13.2. (Southborough’s was 8.1 at that time. For more details on Southborough’s state reports, including vaccinations, see last Friday’s post.)

On Friday, parents of students in all Northborough-Southborough Public Schools were informed of the planned protocols for when school starts next week. There are several protocol changes from those in place at the end of the last school year. But, the indoor mask mandate isn’t one of them. 

Masks will be required at all times on buses and indoors, except for lunches. (At that time, PreK-8 students will follow similar protocols to last spring. The high school will have “no restrictions” for lunch.) For grades 6-12 athletics, masks will also be required indoors. No masks or distancing will be required outdoors at any of the schools.

The announcement from Superintendent Gregory Martineau explained:

In regards to masks, at this time face coverings will be required PreK-8 for all indoor activities, per the Northborough and Southborough PreK-8 School Committees A-170 Face Coverings Policies.

In regards to Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS), on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, The Commissioner of Education is making a recommendation to the Massachusetts Board of Education (BoE) to institute a state mandate for masking indoors through October 1, 2021. I will communicate the outcome of the BoE’s meeting on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, with ARHS families. I learned this information this morning and as a result, the Regional School Committee’s Special Meeting, scheduled for Monday, August 23, 2021, is canceled. . .

At the start of the school year, all students, staff, and visitors in all schools will be required to wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.* At this time, masks are not required for any outdoor activities.

This requirement is based upon the current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatricians, the CDC, and local public health officials, due to the documented efficacy of masking to limit the risk of transmission of the virus, the emerging concerns regarding the contagiousness of the Delta variant, and the finding that vaccinated individuals can unknowingly transmit the virus. . . 

Masks may be removed when eating and drinking in school, and we will continue our approach from last spring where mask breaks will be provided according to the age and needs of students.

This requirement will be reviewed on an ongoing basis using state, county, local, and school data, including COVID-19 cases and test positivity rates, along with medical and public health recommendations, with the intention that the masking requirement can be relaxed at a future point.

*Grades 9-12 pending a vote by The Massachusetts Board of Education on August 24, 2021

Revised guidelines from the state have removed mandates on physical distancing and revised quarantine protocols. One of the biggest changes is the elimination of travel quarantines (unless symptomatic).  Instead, depending on vaccine status and domestic/international travel, the protocols call for testing during specific windows and/or monitoring for symptoms.

There are also revised guidelines on when close contacts without symptoms must quarantine. Standards are stricter for unvaccinated students and staff, but in some instances they are able to “Test and Stay” by taking rapid antigen tests at school daily for at least seven days.

At this point, the district is planning to hold in-school events (though with masks required if indoors). Some large events may be modified. No field trips will be allowed “at this time”, though they will allow indoor presenters as long as they follow guidelines.

The district plans to continue offering its pooled, weekly testing for all students and staff.

You can find the full announcement and all of the details on this year’s guidelines here.

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