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Officials Stress Steps Springfield Schools Are Taking To Keep Kids From Getting Sick

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Paul Tuthill
/
WAMC
With charts showing the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Springfield, Mayor Domenic Sarno sought at a news conference to reassure parents about the reopening of the city's public schools on August 30, 2021.

School starts next week as new COVID cases surge

With a continuing surge of new COVID-19 cases and schools set to fully reopen next week in Springfield, Massachusetts, officials are reassuring parents that infection protection protocols are in place.

When 20,000 students return full-time to school next week in Springfield for the first time since March 2020, masks will be required. Three-feet of distancing will be enforced. Meals will be served in classrooms, not cafeterias. There will be pooled testing for COVID-19 and contact-tracing.

Also, the city’s older school buildings have been retrofitted with equipment to improve ventilation, said Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick.

“We’ve done everything humanly possible to make sure our kids are returning to a safe and healthy environment,” he said.

Vaccinations for children age 12 and older will be available. School nurses will send home permission slips starting next week.

The measures the schools are taking were detailed in a news conference Monday hosted by Mayor Domenic Sarno at City Hall.

“So, we are doing everything we can, again out of an abundance of caution, to return our kids, but our kids need to be in school. They need to be in school,” Warwick said.

The new school year is starting as new COVID case counts in Springfield continue to soar. There were 477 confirmed cases last week – an almost 35 percent increase from the week of August 8th. Infection rates have been rising for seven straight weeks. Springfield had 153 COVID cases during the month of June. In August, so far, there have been 1,130 new cases.

More than half the new cases are occurring in people under the age of 30.

Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said a new youth task force is being created to strategize ways to encourage more young people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Just 30 percent of city residents under age 30 have been vaccinated.

“That is extremely low, and so we are going to keep working to help people understand the need for vaccination,” said Caulton-Harris.

With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration giving full authorization Monday to Pfizer’s COVID vaccine, Sarno said he hopes it reduces vaccine hesitancy.

“The majority of people getting COVID-19, the virus, are unvaccinated, plain and simple,” Sarno said.

If COVID cases continue to climb, Sarno said has he would consider a vaccine mandate for the city’s workforce.