And on Saturday the state took a step back toward normalcy allowing ice rinks to reopen following a two-week closure due to a spike in related coronavirus cases.
On Friday, the Department of Correction reported that inmates at prisons in Norfolk, Shirley, and Cedar Junction had active coronavirus cases.
In a statement Friday, the department said 140 cases at MCI-Norfolk were discovered after facility-wide testing was ordered on the more than 1,200 prisoners there the week prior. Approximately another 300 test results are pending.
The department also identified 19 positive cases at MCI-Shirley after testing all 196 inmates there, the statement said. An inmate in the prison’s minimum security unit also tested positive.
The other active case involves an inmate at MCI-Cedar Junction, according to the statement.
“The inmates who tested positive are primarily asymptomatic and all are receiving medical care within the facilities,” the statement said. ”None have required hospital treatment.”
To minimize chances of transmitting the disease, in-person visitation has been suspended for family and friends at Norfolk, as well as the minimum security unit at Shirley, the statement said.
According to the state’s COVID-19 map, Norfolk is categorized as a red “high risk” community, while Shirley is a green “lower risk” town.
In Andover, many of the town’s high school students switched to remote learning Friday, following the discovery of three coronavirus cases there, Nicole L. Kieser, a spokeswoman for the School Department, said on Saturday.
The decision was made following consultation among district officials, high school administrators, the director of nursing, and the town’s Health Division, she said.
Superintendent Sheldon Berman said in a statement that the decision was made after initial contact tracing efforts. The move to remote learning was done in order “to protect students and staff and to mitigate the threat of transmission,” he said.
Andover announced its decision to close its high school the same day Baker pushed school districts to hold in-person lessons even in communities where cases of COVID-19 have been surging.
Andover is a yellow “moderate risk” town, according to the state COVID-19 map.
Across Andover’s public schools, there are 20 active cases, including those at the high school, Kieser said. No other schools in the district have moved to remote learning at this time, she said.
Most of the school’s roughly 1,800 students are expected to return to the building on Nov. 30, Berman said. Special needs students will continue in-person learning four days a week, he said.
Students who are learning at home will receive instruction remotely and will “maintain the emotional connection to the classroom” during a challenging time for students and families, he said.
Berman asked families to continue monitoring children and keep them home if they have symptoms or don’t feel well.
Anyone identified as a close contact of those infected will be notified privately by the town’s Health Division or the state’s Community Tracing Collaborative.
“Our goals are always to keep our staff and students safe and healthy,” Berman said.
On Saturday, ice rinks started reopening.
The state had said on Oct. 22 that rinks would be closed for two weeks afterat least 30 clusters of COVID-19 associated with organized ice hockey activities were discovered. The total number of confirmed cases came to 108, according to the Department of Public Health.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that close contact between players during indoor ice hockey games increased the infection risk among participants and “create[s] [the] potential for a superspreader event.”
The state on Friday released amended rules for athletic facilities, including indoor and outdoor ice rinks. The amended rules categorize ice hockey as a “higher risk” sport because it involves close contact.
Those rules also include requirements that everyone wear face coverings, cooperate with contact tracing requests, and follow capacity restrictions.
State officials could impose a $300 fine for each violation of the rules.
In a statement, Massachusetts Hockey Executive Director Kevin Kavanagh, and its president, Bob Joyce, said they were excited to see rinks reopen and called on hockey players and coaches to follow the rules.
John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.