Single-digit, districtwide numbers come right after School Committee lifted mask mandate in schools
Despite optional mask policy, most students continue to wear masks; over 90% at Malden High
The numbers of new COVID-19 cases reported in the Malden Public Schools (MPS) were at their lowest levels – since reporting began – over the past two weekly reporting periods. Since MPS began reporting the numbers on its district website – right after the school year began in September – the overall number of new virus cases reported on the “COVID-19 Dashboard” has been in single digits for the periods ending March 16 and March 23.
For the latest reporting period, released Wednesday, that included just nine cases districtwide and zero cases at five of the seven MPS schools: no cases at Malden High School, Early Learning Center (ELC), Linden STEAM Academy, Salemwood or Forestdale. There were five cases at the Beebe School and four at Ferryway School. Of the nine total cases, six cases out of the total MPS population of over 6,400 students (less than 1/10th of 1%) and three cases of over 500 staff members (2/3 of 1%) were stated in the latest reporting period ending March 23.
Overall, Massachusetts has seen a dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases statewide, which has prompted most communities to drop pandemic mask restrictions in public spaces and in schools. The massive drop in cases and hospitalizations came beginning in early February, following a spike in virus infections caused by the highly contagious COVID-19 omicron variant in late December into mid-January.
Despite the drop, there have been some isolated, recent outbreaks in cases at schools which have caused the brief closings of at least two schools in Eastern Mass. in the past two weeks. Last week, after 44 COVID-19 cases were reported in the sixth grade at the Concord Middle School in Peabody, the school was ordered shut down for deep cleaning on Friday, but it reopened earlier this week.
Public health experts have been urging leaders to continue to invest in pandemic preparedness despite the drop in cases, advising that new variants and surges can still arise. Currently, national and state experts are eyeing the uptick in cases in Europe, apparently driven by the variant BA.2, which is also referred to as “stealth omicron.”
The City of Malden lifted its indoor mask mandate in February, and on March 7 the Malden School Committee voted, 7-2, to lift the mask mandate in the Malden Public Schools. Dating back to February 2021, when individual Malden school buildings successively began to reopen to in-person learning – per individual family choice – all students and staff were required to wear protective facemasks at all times inside the buildings. This policy was reinforced with another School Committee vote at an August meeting, just prior to schools reopening.
At the time of the recent vote, there was an anxious tone to the comments made by nearly all the School Committee members who voted on lifting the mask mandate in the schools, along with Superintendent Dr. Ligia Noriega-Murphy. Specifically, some expressed concern over potential negative reactions by students in the schools who decided to no longer wear the masks toward those who chose the option of continuing with the mask wearing. That concern apparently has gone by the wayside as across the district, particularly at the high school level – the age group of 14-19 most susceptible of all of them for COVID-19 transmission – many students and some staff have opted to continue to wear the masks. According to reports, over 90% percent of the nearly 1,900 students attending Malden High School continue to wear the protective masks every day inside the building, despite the existence of the “no mask” option.
Supt. Noriega-Murphy stressed at the most recent School Committee meeting that the health, safety and well-being of students, staff and both groups’ families would continue to drive the decision-making in the MPS. Provision of free Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) would continue, she said, and high vigilance, including continual monitoring of local and statewide health advisories, would continue through the remainder of the 2021-22 school year and beyond. In addition, several rounds of distribution of thousands of free Rapid COVID-19 tests at the schools for students, families and staff members have continued for the past several months, as well as free COVID pool testing in the schools.
Next week, the MPS hosts a series of free COVID-19 vaccination clinics at all of the seven public school buildings on successive mornings from Tuesday, March 29 through Friday, April 1. (See separate story.) As an incentive, each person vaccinated will receive a FREE $25 Gift Card, FREE 2-week membership at the Mystic Valley YMCA (in Malden) and a FREE entry into a raffle to win a $500 Gift Card.
Malden Public Schools hosting free COVID-19 vaccination at all the seven schools next week
Those who receive vaccine get FREE $25 Gift Card, 2 weeks membership at Mystic Valley YMCA, chance to win $500 Gift Card; vaccinations can be administered for children age 5-up and all adults
The Malden Public Schools (MPS), in conjunction with the Malden Health Department and the City of Malden, is hosting a series of seven free COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics next week – one each at all the public school buildings. As an extra incentive for Malden residents, children and adults, to be vaccinated, all those vaccinated in this special series at the MPS schools will receive the following: FREE $25 Gift Card; FREE two-week membership at the Mystic Valley YMCA (located at 99 Dartmouth St. in Malden); and entry into a raffle to win a FREE $500 Gift Card. Walk-ins are welcome at all the free COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
The schedule is as follows:
Tuesday, March 29, from 8:00-10:00 a.m.
—Forestdale K-8 School, 74 Sylvan St., Malden
—Salemwood K-8 School, 529 Salem St., Malden
Wednesday, March 30, from 8:00-10:00 a.m.
—Ferryway K-8 School, 50 Cross St., Malden
—Linden STEAM Academy, 29 Wescott St., Malden
Thursday, March 31, from 8:00-10:00 a.m.
—Beebe K-8 School, 401 Pleasant St., Malden
—Early Learning Center, 257 Mountain Ave., Malden
Friday, April 1, from 8:00-10:00 a.m.
—Malden High School, 77 Salem St., Malden
For more information, please contact the Malden Health Department at (7810-397-7049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.