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Students Wait In Line For COVID Tests As Schools Deal With Post-Holiday COVID Issues

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) -- Every student in Cambridge gets an optional PCR test before returning to school. The only cost is standing in a long line.

"We've had our son in school…basically since we could," said Luke Pritchett, who brought his son for a test Monday. "I think it's been really great, a lot better than the alternative that we had before."

"At this point, cancelation is a last resort," said Cambridge School Superintendent Dr. Victoria Greer. But she did hold off on classes for the first two days of this week, allowing time for students and staff to test first.

"My HR department is working right now to call in staffing agencies in case of staff outages as a result of the testing," Greer said.

Boston was also off to a slower start, delivering bags of state-issued home tests to schools for staff to use before reopening Tuesday.

"Our central office team, many of us are licensed teachers, myself included," said Superintendent Dr. Linda Cassellius. "If I have to go out and teach in a classroom, I'm going to do that. But our goal is to keep classes going, and to keep students in person."

A startling number of positive COVID cases had school leaders across Massachusetts weighing cancelations and delays after vacation. Some have called for schools to press pause, and pull back to remote learning.

Governor Charlie Baker said that's not his plan. He held a news conference in Salem, where classes resumed Monday morning. "The rules here are pretty simple: we count in-person school as school. If a school district does not open at any point during the school year, they can use snow days until they run out of snow days, but they do need to provide their kids with 180 days of in-person education this year," he said.

Cambridge Department of Public Health Medical Director, Dr. Lisa Dobberteen, wonders if there will be enough healthy teachers, staff, and students to keep it going. "Respectfully, we would hope that the Governor and DESE might reexamine the ban on remote learning during this time when numbers are so high," she said.

Some experts say it's probably too late to change the trajectory of the current surge.

"It might help, but the time to do that was weeks ago, not now," said UMass Memorial Hospital President Dr. Eric Dickson.  "So I think we're going to have to keep on doing what we're doing and hope that we generate less hospitalizations from all these positive cases."

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