NATICK – Following a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, Natick Public Schools urges to wear a mask until the increase subsides, school inspector Anna Nolin told the city health council.
If the trend continues, she said during the health board meeting Wednesday, the district could reintroduce a mask mandate for group events such as band concerts and plays.
According to bydatahas Natick surpassed Massachusetts over the past two weeks in average daily new cases per. 100,000 people at a rate of 40.7 compared to the state average of 32.5.
“COVID will not be eradicated,” said Director of Public Health Michael Boudreau at the meeting. “I think it will be here; we’re still going to see mutations, but it’s not like getting rid of smallpox or polio. “
What are the numbers?
Between May 5 and 11, cases among students had roughly doubled from the week before at Natick High School, Wilson Middle School, Kennedy Middle School and Memorial Elementary School, according to data Nolin presented to the board. Brown Elementary Schools cases jumped from five to 15, and Ben-Hem Elementary School also saw an increase.
Cases typically see a rebound effect after school holidays, which could contribute to the higher numbers, Nolin said.
“But more then, I think there is a fatigue with the isolation, and people are fully committed to social events, and eating out and larger group events,” she said.
Natick’s increase is consistent with nearby school districts. Framingham reported, for example 195 cases from 5.-11. May more than three times the 62 cases it counted in the week leading up to the spring break.
“At this time, we do not expect any changes to current practice at Framingham for the remainder of this year or next year,” said School Superintendent Robert Tremblay in a statement. “Of course, we will continue to monitor cases in Framingham together with the city’s Department of Public Health, and if changes are needed, they will be communicated to our entire school community.”
Similarly, Milford Superintendent of Schools Kevin McIntyre said his district is not considering a change in its masking policy despite an increase in cases.
“We are seeing an increase in cases,” he said in a statement. “At this time, we are not considering requiring a mask to be worn, but any student, staff member, or visitor is welcome and supported if they choose to wear a mask.”
In Natick, Nolin told the National Board of Health that she would send a message to families urging people to return to masking until the increase subsides.
When it dropped its mask mandate, the school district adopted one “flex mask” culture which allows students and teachers to make personal decisions about wearing masks. The protocol also allows room for the district to return to masking when transmission speeds change.
In addition, the schools have worked to inform students about personal responsibility around monitoring symptoms, quarantining and wearing masks as needed after a fight with COVID-19, Nolin explained.
“Our nurses are training full throttle on what personal responsibility means now,” she said. “I think the transition we are in now is that there is a level of personal responsibility that people are a little shaky about.”
Likewise, Boudreau said his department focuses on public education and encourages people to get one booster vaccine if they are eligible and to stay home if they are symptomatic. The health department is exploring possible booster clinics, and Boudreau said he is working on new messages and posters to inform the public about isolation and quarantine.
In the coming days, a decision the school district may face is whether to require masks at group events such as concerts or plays.
“I just want society to understand that at some point, if the numbers continue to evolve in this direction, we would reintroduce masking for the group events like band concerts and plays and that kind of thing, because that’s just a smart move, if the rates continue to go this way, ”Nolin said.
Daily News reporter Zane Razzaq contributed to this report.