Health department, schools push forward on reopening plan following announcement from state

262

Health director Shaun McAuliffe, during his update to the Select Board on Tuesday, said he is conferring with school officials regarding a reopening plan following an announcement from state officials earlier in the day pushing districts to return to full-time in-person learning.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is calling for elementary schools to fully reopen in April, followed by middle schools. The goal for high schools was less firm due to students changing classes throughout the day.

“Consistent with DESE’s announcement today, we’re working with the school department on their reopening plans and strategies,” McAuliffe said.

The schools already have been working on a plan for full-time learning — it established a Reopening Planning Team last month. It’s not yet clear what affect Tuesday’s announcement from the state might have for Hopkinton.

Looking at the overall town situation, COVID numbers continue to drop.

“Consistent with national trends and in the commonwealth, we’ve seen a significant decrease in the number of cases in Hopkinton,” McAuliffe said, noting that the positivity rate has dropped from a high of just about 4 percent during the holidays, down to 2.01 last week. He said he expects it to be below 2 percent when the state releases its next report this Thursday.

Coming out of last week’s February school vacation, McAuliffe said the number of people  traveling out of state decreased as well.

“One positive thing to note is that although we did see a significant amount of travel, it was about a third of the travel that we saw over the November to New Year’s break and the holidays,” he said.

McAuliffe continued to stress that everyone in town practice good hygiene and stay home if they are showing any symptoms or have contact with any suspected COVID cases.

“We’ve had a lot of success in town, and as we move toward opening up the schools full-time, our attention to these basic details will really guide our success into going back to school full-time moving forward,” he said.

McAuliffe said his department is working with neighboring towns on a plan for vaccination clinics, after a successful week-long clinic at the Senior Center that included support from the Fire Department, Police Department and Senior Center personnel.

“At the end of the day we have a lot to be proud of,” he said. “We pulled off a really fantastic clinic.”

He said just over 50 percent of residents 75 and older have been vaccinated.