Around New England

Somerville School Health Official Declines To Call For Mask Mandate In City’s Public Schools

January 31, 2023

Coronavirus is way down this year in the Somerville public schools, a school official said.

The school district averages between 30 and 40 cases per weeks, including a surge to about 54 cases during the last week of December and the first week of January, said Elizabeth Quaratiello, the city’s director of school health services.

But last year the number was 812.

“It’s just really not comparable at all,” Quaratiello told the Somerville School Committee during the committee’s meeting Monday, January 23.

Wastewater tests in Somerville show about 2,000 copies per millileter of coronavirus, as opposed to 13,000 last year.

“So, much, much lower,” Quaratiello said.

At some point, she said, coronavirus ought to be treated as just one of several seasonal illnesses common during the wintertime.

“I do think we are going to get to the point where we are just recognizing that Covid is another respiratory illness that we have to think about, just like anything else, like flu, like RSV. And I want to point out that some doctors are saying Covid is just a cold with a name, for children. Just like RSV for older children is a cold with a name. It doesn’t usually cause serious illness,” Quaratiello said (at 36:46 of the video).

(“RSV” stands for respiratory syncytial virus.)

Unlike most other cities and towns in Massachusetts, Somerville is still asking residents to report confirmed cases of coronavirus through private tests, even without symptoms.

Some Somerville residents want masks to be mandatory in the city’s public schools two weeks before a vacation and two weeks after it, said one school committee member, Sarah Phillips, who said she would pass along data given to her from residents.

Quaratiello said school officials are still offering masks for people in the schools who want one. But she did not call for reinstating a mask mandate.


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