ASHLAND – More than 50% of the new COVID-19 cases in Ashland Public Schools, are individuals who are already vaccinated, said Superintendent of Schools Jim Adams, in an email tonight, January 9.
Adams said almost 35% of the positive cases are reported to the district via home COVID-19 rapid test kits.
Supt. Adams said between January 3 and 8, there were 114 student cases and 16 staff cases for a total of 130 case in the public school district the first week back from holiday vacation.
“It certainly has been an interesting week. I think most of us were appreciative of the snow day on Friday. However, just because we received about 8 inches of snow, COVID-19 did not allow for many of our staff to take a break. The Omicron variant has changed how we must conduct business and utilize our resources. While the state positivity rate hovers in the 20% range, we know full well that the data is underreported due to at-home antigen testing. Almost 50% of the positive cases reported below are from home antigen tests,” said Supt. Adams.
“I am in the process of updating and adjusting how we report positive Covid-19 cases to the public in light of the surge we are experiencing. I think it is important to be as transparent with the data as possible, which we have committed to since March 2020.,” said the Ashland Superintendent tonight, January 9.
“A few families have encouraged the District to start pooled testing for our students. We are fortunate that APS has a very high vaccination rate, and we believe vaccinations to be one of the best mitigation strategies for our community,” said Supt. Adams. “However, DESE recommends that vaccinated individuals do not participate in pooled testing. Additionally, pooled testing requires a significant amount of time to collect specimens, and there is a significant wait time for results (typically up to 48hrs) allowing the virus to continue to spread.”
“We have determined that pooled testing is not an effective mitigation strategy given the newest DESE/DPH guidelines and the current surge of Omicron. As we are seeing more cases of students with COVID-19, we need to focus our attention on other mitigation strategies (i.e. encouraging folks to get vaccinated, continued use of facial coverings, washing hands regularly, physically distancing the best we can, and asking families to keep students home when they are not well). Instead of pooled surveillance testing, APS will pursue the use of symptomatic testing only,” said Adams.
Adams announced tonight, as well, that the district would no longer be doing contact tracing or participate in the “test and stay” program.
The Town of Ashland has seen a surge in COVID cases since the holidays.
In the last 14 days, the Town of Ashland reported 389 new COVID cases, according to Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The rate of positivity over the last 14 days increased from 4.59% to 11.34%
Adams reminded families tonight that any “student who has a COVID-positive household member or is currently pending results, whether symptomatic or not, should notify their school nurse before returning to school. Any student displaying symptoms of COVID-19 while at home must be kept home and tested for COVID-19 before returning to school.”