Massachusetts is changing its coronavirus map, amid push to reopen schools

Nov 7, 2020 by

Gov. Charlie Baker says there are “too many communities” in remote-only models. But with COVID-19 cases on the rise, the state’s largest teachers’ union says it’s “not the time to be relaxing health and safety standards.”

The second COVID-19 surge may be underway in Massachusetts, but Gov. Charlie Baker says that data shows students should be able to return to schools safely.

His administration is updating their community-level coronavirus risk metrics accordingly.

During a press conference Friday afternoon, state officials announced changes to the criteria for the spotlight-style COVID-19 risk map they use to advise local school districts on decisions to hold in-person classes, as well as permit communities to move forward in the reopening process.

The changes, which significantly reduce the number of communities with a high-risk red designation, come as Baker and his top education appointees continue to pressure all cities and town to reopen to prioritize in-person learning.

“Some people mistakenly believe that we can just wait this out and then send our kids back to school when there’s a vaccine or treatments,” the Republican governor said Friday. “But we all know that losing a week, a month, a quarter, or more in the life of a kid’s education has real consequences.”

Officials say the new criteria is more refined than the previous version, which gave communities a gray, green, yellow, or red designation based solely on their average number of new daily cases per 100,000 residents. That approach had been knocked for lacking nuance by officials in some smaller towns, where an isolated cluster could quickly bounce them into the red zone.

The new version still uses the number of cases per 100,000 residents as one of the measures, but differentiates communities by population. For towns with less than 10,000 residents, their designation is simply based on the number of cases. For larger communities, the updated metrics use 10 cases per 100,000 residents — an increase compared to the old incidence rate threshold — as a general benchmark, while also incorporating their respective positive COVID-19 test rates.

Updated metrics for schools and municipalities. —Baker administration

Source: Massachusetts is changing its coronavirus map, amid push to reopen schools | Boston.com

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