Boston schools mask mandate stays as city rescinds COVID-19 public health emergency
City students and teachers will still have to wear masks as the Hub’s COVID-19 public health emergency declaration was rescinded on Wednesday.
The virus metrics are heading in the right direction across the city and in the schools, but Boston health officials said positivity rates are still above the threshold for lifting the K-12 mask mandate.
The city’s daily coronavirus incidence rate is currently 13 cases per 100,000 residents.
“Masking can be lifted in BPS schools once we reach a citywide daily COVID-19 incidence rate of 10 cases per 100,000 residents,” Sarimer Sanchez, infectious diseases bureau director at the Boston Public Health Commission, said during Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting.
“It (that threshold) has not been yet as of today,” she said, adding, “We are headed in that direction. We hope to be there soon, but we’re not there yet.”
The city lifted its mask mandate on Saturday, but that change did not apply to Boston Public Schools.
The school district continues to have a mask mandate for teachers and students, while many districts tossed the requirement after the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced the end of the mandate in late February. Worcester this week rescinded its K-12 schools mask mandate.
Meanwhile, the Board of Health voted unanimously to rescind the public health emergency declaration on Wednesday as virus case and hospitalization rates continue to improve. In addition to the city mask mandate getting lifted, the vaccination passport for businesses has also expired.
Boston Public Health Commission Director Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Mayor Michelle Wu’s top health official, said she “continues to be optimistic” with the plummeting virus trends following the omicron variant surge. She recommended that the public health emergency come to an end, and the board approved it on a 6-0 vote.
The public health emergency declaration went into effect on March 15, 2020. The declaration will officially expire on April 1.
The lifting of the citywide mandate last weekend means that people no longer have to wear masks in public-facing businesses — such as gyms, bars and restaurants, museums and entertainment venues, though individual businesses can require masks if they so choose.
The city also dropped mask mandates for many municipal non-school buildings, such as City Hall.
The decision was made based on key COVID-19 metrics, which show continued improvement in the prevalence and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in Boston.
Public transportation, health care settings, and congregant care settings are still subject to state and federal mask orders. Masks are recommended in city buildings where vulnerable populations are served, such as Boston Public Library branches and BCYF community centers.