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Recommendations for Mask Use in Peabody public buildings, including public schools

August 25, 2021

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that fully vaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission of coronavirus. As of 8/22/21, Essex County in Massachusetts is considered an area of “high transmission.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html and https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.

The Massachusetts Medical Society issued guidance on 7/30/21, which recommends that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor public settings, especially when physical distancing is not a viable option. https://www.massmed.org/News/MMS-Positions-on-Health-Care-Issues/Massachusetts-Medical-Society-issues-mask-guidance/

On 7/19/21, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidance for the start of the 2021 school year which includes the recommendation that everyone older than age 2 wear masks when indoors, regardless of vaccination status. https://services.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2021/american-academy-of-pediatrics-updates-recommendations-for-opening-schools-in-fall-2021/

On 7/30/21, the American Academy of Family Physicians issued a statement that “strongly urges businesses, institutions, and schools to follow the CDC’s guidance” around use of masks. https://www.aafp.org/news/media-center/statements/aafp-supports-covid-safety-guidance.html

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidance as of 7/30/21 strongly recommends all students in K-6 wear masks indoors. They also recommend that unvaccinated staff in all grades, unvaccinated students in grades 7-12, and unvaccinated visitors wear masks indoors. https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/on-desktop/2021-0730fall-2021-covid19-guidance.pdf.

On 8/20/21, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education requested authority from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to issue a mask mandate for public school students and staff in all grades, stating “…I am recommending this additional measure in light of the increasing case rates, and to further encourage and provide additional time for more students and staff to get vaccinated.”

The most recent state data shows that only 61% of eligible 12-15 year olds in Peabody have been vaccinated against COVID with at least one dose and 49% are fully vaccinated. Among Peabody residents 16-19 years old, 70% have received 1 dose of vaccine, and 63% are fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates among Hispanic residents of Peabody lag significantly. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-covid-19-vaccination-data-and-updates#weekly-covid-19-municipality-vaccination-data-

State data shows that the 14-day incidence rate of new cases in Peabody has increased from a low of 0.5 per 100,000 as of June 24, 2021 to 12.5 per 100,000 on August 19. https://www.peabody-ma.gov/health/COVID%20data%208-17-21.pdf.

State data shows that the percent positivity rate in Peabody increased from 0.4% to 2.58% between June 24 and August 19, 2021. https://www.peabody-ma.gov/health/COVID%20data%208-17-21.pdf.

Local data shows that, throughout the pandemic, 17% of all COVID cases in Peabody are among residents under age 19. https://www.peabody-ma.gov/health/COVID%20data%208-17-21.pdf. For the most recent period between 7/18/21 – 8/17/21, Peabody had 190 confirmed cases; 33 of these (17%) were in children under age 19 years.

Local data shows that, for the time period between 6/1/21 -8/10/21, 35% of all probable and confirmed cases of COVID infection in Peabody were among fully vaccinated residents. Recent data collected from the outbreak in Provincetown MA demonstrates the potential for vaccinated individuals to infect others. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7031e2.htm.

The CDC reports that the Delta variant accounts for over 90% of COVID infections in the U.S. Delta is about twice as contagious as earlier forms of the virus. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/delta-variant.html

The Board of Health strives to protect the health of all Peabody residents and staff while recognizing the importance of keeping our society open. Keeping our students safe and in school full-time is a priority we all share. Given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, the decreased physical distancing in public places as well as in most classrooms this fall, and the difficulty of reliably ascertaining the vaccination status of individuals in a public setting, the Peabody Health Department strongly recommends that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor public settings, including within Peabody Public Schools and Peabody municipal buildings.

The Peabody Board of Health will continue to monitor state and local data and periodically revise its recommendations in accordance with this data and guidance from reputable public health organizations.

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