By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The number of COVID-19 cases reported to the Board of Health is trending downward.
Fire Chief/Emergency Management Director Glenn Davis informed the Villager there are 268 active COVID cases in Lynnfield as of Monday morning. There have been 2,874 total cases since the start of the pandemic and 2,575 people have recovered from the virus. Tragically, 31 residents have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus.
The School Department’s COVID-19 dashboard revealed there were 30 cases as of Monday morning. Summer Street School has the highest number of cases with 11. There are seven cases at Huckleberry Hill School. There are six cases at Lynnfield Middle School, four cases at Lynnfield High School and there are two cases at Lynnfield Preschool.
Davis noted that more people are now using at-home rapid antigen tests in order to determine whether they have COVID.
“Those numbers are not getting reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the local Board of Health,” said Davis. “Since those numbers are not showing up in my statistics, we have no way to track those at-home positive tests. There have been some residents who have called and emailed us in order to report they have tested positive.”
Davis said test results from the MWRA’s pilot study to track wastewater at Boston’s Deer Island Treatment Plant for indicators of COVID-19 is “trending downward.” According to the MWRA, samples are taken three to seven times a week and are analyzed by the wastewater epidemiology company Biobot Analytics.
School regulations changed again
Superintendent Kristen Vogel and COVID-19 Nurse Coordinator Toni Rebelo announced in a letter to families on Jan. 21 that the School Department is making changes to its COVID testing program, which will go into effect on Monday, Feb. 7. The changes come in the wake of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health updating state regulations.
“We are opting into an at-home testing program that will increase testing of our participating students and staff, regardless of vaccination status,” Vogel and Rebelo wrote.
Vogel and Rebelo stated that the district will be sending test kits to the students who choose to participate in the voluntary program as long as “there are no delays in shipping.”
“From there on, tests will be sent home every other Monday and are then to be used for weekly administration on every Tuesday, beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 8,” Vogel and Rebelo wrote. “In addition to this new at-home antigen test option, we will continue with symptomatic testing during the week and targeted classroom and team sport testing as needed.”
In the wake of the state regulation changes, Vogel and Rebelo stated that the Test-and-Stay program and contact tracing for in-school close contacts will be discontinued in all four schools beginning on Monday, Feb. 7
“As of Monday, Feb. 7, families will no longer be notified of close contacts in any form,” Vogel and Rebelo wrote. “This new at-home testing opportunity is voluntary and only those who opt-in will receive tests. If you choose not to opt-in, there are no additional requirements and your student comes to school as normal.”
DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley called the new at-home testing program a “game changer” on Jan. 18. He said the new program will allow schools to pivot strategies away from identifying asymptomatic close contacts to COVID mitigation and symptomatic testing efforts.
“We’ve also heard from many nurses and school administrators urging us to make changes to our Test-and-Stay program and the contact tracing associated with it,” Riley said. “And both our medical advisors and the (Department of Public Health) say it’s time to pivot.”
— The State House News Service contributed to this report.