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Drury Mask Mandate Can Be Lifted If School Meets Vaccination Threshold

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The public schools will release a survey among Drury High School families and staff to poll vaccination rates in order to see if they meet the state's 80 percent vaccination rate threshold.
Superintendent Barbara Malkas gave her COVID-19 update at Tuesday's School Committee meeting and said according to the new state guidance a school must reach an 80 percent vaccination rate to lift the state mask mandate before Nov. 1.
"By Oct. 15, we need to attest to any school ... where all students and staff that lead to an 80 percent vaccination rate," Malkas said. "By having  an 80 percent vaccination rate, it lowers the risk to unvaccinated individuals and that data point has been approved at the state level." 
The School Committee passed its own mask mandate in August. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education then set a mandate until Oct. 1 that was later extended until at least Nov. 1.
This would only apply to Drury, where students are of age to be vaccinated.
Unvaccinated students and staff would still have to wear masks. 
Malkas said the district will have to follow a two-step process and first survey students and staff to see if the school hits this 80 percent threshold. 
She clarified that every staff member who is in the building counts toward this 80 percent. This includes janitorial staff, teacher aids, paraprofessionals, food service workers, and coaches.
She said the district will first release a survey to all staff and students.
"This is the guidance we are using to create a survey that will go out to all staff and all students to … self-identity of being fully vaccinated," Malkas said.
Next, the newly hired COVID-19 coordinator comes into play to work with the nurse to verify the vaccinations.
"They will work with the school nurses to identity all of the survey results and see the physical evidence, the proof of vaccination," Malkas said. "It is a two-step process, and it is a little complicated. I am working with other superintendents to make sure we are implementing this with fidelity and a level of confidentiality."
Malkas said they will know at that point if they are even able to attest to the state on the Oct. 15 deadline.
Mayor Thomas Bernard, chairman of the School Committee, added that the district's mask mandate supersedes the state's lift and if the School Committee chooses, it could keep the ban in place past Nov. 1, even if the school has an 80 percent vaccination rate. 
"I think that is just important for all of us as we go forward just to know what the tracks are and where they could, but not necessarily, going to converge," he said.  
Malkas said the survey will be released to families before the end of the week and they will have a week to respond.
Malkas did provide some good news and said the district as of late has been mostly free of the novel coronavirus. 
"In the last two weeks, we have had 0 or only one positive result in the district so that is good news considering our first week back we had five," she said.
She said it was important to stay true to transmission mitigation efforts within the school district and the community.

Tags: COVID-19,   masks,   

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North Adams Advises Masking Indoors Regardless of Vaccine Status

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Local public health officials are advising that all residents wear face coverings indoors regardless of vaccination status because of the dramatic increase in COVID-19 transmission. 
The joint public health advisory was issued Monday by the North Adams Board of Health and the Office of the Mayor and is effective immediately.
"The recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the City of North Adams and other communities, including among vaccinated residents, coupled with concerns regarding new COVID-19 variants reminds us of the continuing need for caution in the face of the COVID-19 virus," the release states. "As of [Thursday, Dec. 2], transmission rates are increasing in Berkshire County and the City of North Adams has experienced an increase in cases locally in the past weeks, with further positivity rates anticipated following the Thanksgiving holiday."
North Adams registered a positivity rate of 73.2 per 100,000 people, and averaged nearly 10 new cases a day for the two weeks ending Nov. 27. The city's 14-day average positivity rate on Thursday (when the weekly numbers are posted by the state) was 6.76 percent compared to 3.6 percent for the entire state.
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