State May Change Color Coding to Prevent Limited Outbreaks From Scarring Whole Communities

Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley, right, with Gov. Charlie Baker. (Photograph by Sam Doran/SHNS.)

State public health officials are planning updates to the stoplight metric that measures community COVID-19 transmission risks that will incorporate examples where cases at colleges, nursing homes or jails may push an entire community into the red category and affect decisions about in-person learning.

Word of the proposed change came Tuesday from state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley

“We’ve seen how those places can skew a city’s or town’s data, and so we’re hoping that when the new metric comes out it will take that into account,” Riley told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education during a meeting in Malden.

In the area, Haverhill partially blames its high-risk red code on outbreaks at a nursing home and a church, while North Andover has asked the state to dial back its ranking caused by an outbreak at Merrimack College.

Riley also said that most of the districts it contacted to question their decisions not to move ahead with in-person learning have since progressed to in-person learning or are planning for it. He mentioned two school districts, later determined to be East Longmeadow and Watertown, that will be audited.

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